Nick Sorenson could never understand why anyone wouldn't want to play sports year-round while in high school.
"For me, sports was it in high school," said Sorenson, who is now a free safety and team captain with the National Football League's Jacksonville Jaguars.
The former Marshall football, baseball and basketball player just couldn't see why anyone wouldn't play as many sports as they could — especially at Marshall, where the under-populated school needs all the help it can get.
"It wore my body down, but hey I was 17 years old," said Sorenson, who said that playing so many sports helped him develop into a complete athlete.
Now in his sixth year in the NFL, Sorenson remembered the pressure he felt to focus on just one sport in high school.
"I got pressure from other parents and other guys, because I played baseball and basketball even though I had a scholarship," said Sorenson, who had locked up a spot with Virginia Tech during the summer before his senior year. "It can help you develop in other ways. How do you measure that? You can't," said Sorenson, who lettered three times as a shortstop and outfielder with the baseball team. He also lettered three years as a basketball player and set a school record as a sophomore by blocking seven shots in one game. Sorenson, whose father Dick was a college football player never pressured his son, he just nurtured his talent.
"He never claimed to know what to do but he knows what hard work is," said Sorenson. "He never got on me about my technique, never. He just wanted to see you work hard and compete."
SORENSON, WHO had played baseball with American Legion Post 270, never thought that football would be his sport of choice. "I always felt like I was better in baseball early on, but I always loved football," said Sorenson, who used to go to Marshall football practices just to watch even before he was in high school.
He remembered the Swarm brothers and Lyle Brothers, who had carried Marshall to Northern Region dominance in the late '90's.
"I couldn't wait to get there," said Sorenson, who was recently enshrined in the Marshall High School Hall of Fame.
Dreams of a serious college and NFL career, Sorenson thought, would never be a reality for him as he reported for his first day of freshman football weighing 121 pounds and barely breaking the 5-foot-7 mark.
"I was a normal little guy and I just started working hard," said Sorenson, who attended offseason camps at Prospeed and other offseason training programs in the area, "before that stuff was huge. Now, all the kids are doing it," Sorenson added.
Still considered one of the hardest working players ever to come out of the Northern Region, Sorenson returned for his sophomore year at 6-feet and 150-pounds.
"I was definitely a late-bloomer," said the pro free safety, who is now listed at 6-foot-3 210-pounds.
Sorenson wouldn't start a football game at quarterback until the second game of his junior year when Marshall's starter got hurt.
He blossomed into the best quarterback in the region that year (1994) throwing for 14 touchdowns. He finished with career numbers that included 1,925 yards passing and 23 touchdowns while rushing for 604 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was a two-time all-district selection in football (1994, 1995).
Sorenson, who threw for 900 yards (8 TD) and rushed for 300 yards (4 TD) in his senior year, would find success at Virginia Tech, but not at the quarterback position. "In June, at the baseball banquet, coach [Dean] Sissler said something about a couple of guys and then he said 'Nicholas doesn't know this, but Virginia Tech is interested in offering him a scholarship,'" remembered Sorenson. "I didn't know that it was legal. I knew nothing about it. I'm sitting at the pool at Cardinal Hill and my mom walks up with a letter from [Virginia Tech head football coach] Frank Beamer."
Sorenson called Beamer that night and committed to Virginia Tech in the summer before his senior year. The media attention that followed brought Sorenson attention from all angles, and extra attention from the opposition.
"They were gunning for me," said Sorenson. Even with all the attention, Sorenson has never changed his attitude. "He is one of the few people you meet in your lifetime," said Marshall Asst. DSA and assistant football coach Joe Swarm — the very player that Sorenson idolized as a kid. "He is so solid. I've never seen or heard him say a negative thing about anybody."
SORENSON WAS USA Today/Sporting Weekly's 2004 NFL Special Teams Player of the Year, just three years after going undrafted in the 2001 draft and signing an undrafted free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins. He was released shortly thereafter and picked up by the St. Louis Rams practice squad before being activated in November of 2001. He went to Super Bowl XXXVI as a defensive back with the Rams.
"For me, I didn't realize that I could [survive in the NFL] until I got there," said Sorenson. "You always think that there is so much better talent. I had seen speed, it's just the fact that everyone is fast. I can do this, and I know I can do this. You have to do it every day. Within in a couple practices, I'm thinking 'man I can hang with these guys.'"
Sorenson has done more than hang. He is a team captain and has posted solid numbers in his six year career with the Jaguars. He received a multi-year contract extension last season and looks to build upon that success.
"As far as me living my dream, that has been awesome," said Sorenson. "My family and friends don't treat me any different. I'm able to do things and help people out more monetarily or even using my voice for things."
Sorenson remembers returning to Marshall before he was signed by St. Louis and helping coach for a while. It stuck with him as an experience he will never forget.
"It was cool how every kid is different and seeing them learn and apply it and then watching them be excited about it. You get a bond with them," he said.
Sorenson at Tech
Nick Sorenson spent his first two seasons at quarterback at Virginia Tech before he was moved to the defensive side of the ball. The following is a look at his statistics and acheivements at the college level:
Games Rushes/Yards Pass Completions/Yards TD/INT
16 56-182 42/80 446 4/9
Games Solo Tackles Assists Total Sacks
38 66 51 117 4
*1998 Virginia Tech Gator Bowl MVP
Nick Sorenson is 36 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.