Former Ohio State receiver C.J. Saunders signs contract with Carolina Panthers

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver C.J. Saunders (80) returns a punt against Rutgers Scarlet Knights linebacker Trevor Morris (5) during the second quarter of the NCAA football game between Ohio State and Rutgers at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, September 8, 2018.  [Jonathan Quilter/Dispatch]

Former Ohio State wide receiver C.J. Saunders has signed a contract with the Carolina Panthers.

The franchise announced Tuesday night it had reached an agreement with Saunders, who spent last season as a student assistant with the Buckeyes after his appeal for a sixth season of eligibility was denied by the NCAA.

A former walk-on from Dublin who became a team captain, Saunders had missed all of the previous season in 2019 because of a knee injury.

Despite the late setbacks, he sought to earn an NFL tryout this offseason and went through rookie minicamp with the Atlanta Falcons last month.

His biggest audition for teams came at the Buckeyes’ pro day in March when he caught passes from Justin Fields during the quarterback’s throwing session.

Over interviews with teams ahead of the draft, Saunders said he emphasized his knowledge of the sport.

“Mostly what I try to display in conversation is my attitude toward the game and toward how seriously I take what I'm doing,” Saunders said. “You can show that through good conversation and showing your knowledge of the game, how dedicated you are.

“You kind of want to sell yourself the best you can, while also seeing how you fit into an organization and how they operate.”

While appearing in 16 games for the Buckeyes over the 2018 and 2017 seasons, Saunders caught 27 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown.

Five other undrafted former Ohio State players also reached agreements with teams last month.