Most football players owe a large debt to their mothers. Whether it’s the trips back and forth to football practice, pep talks after tough losses, or just making sure their Pop Warner jerseys were clean every weekend, they certainly contribute a lot to an athlete’s budding career.
Southern Utah University quarterback Brad Sorensen and his mom certainly shared those experiences together; but as Sorensen told me, he may owe a little more thanks to his mother than you might expect. Sorensen is just one final season of college football away from potentially becoming a NFL draft pick. But without his mom's eye for talent, that may have never happened.
Sorensen is the fifth of six children, including five boys. His family is not only large, but very athletic and competitive. “My brothers were always in the back yard playing football, basketball, even ping pong…anything we could compete at. My father was the biggest competitor in the family, and I think he instilled that competitive nature in me” Sorensen said.
The Sorensen family had a rule that their sons couldn’t play football until they were in high school, because of the risk of injury. And although Brad spent his younger years playing soccer, basketball, and baseball, football was still the sport he was primarily interested in.
“I grew up watching my brothers play high school football. I went to every game. Even though I wasn’t playing pee wee football, I was around it my whole life. Football was always the sport I really liked” Sorensen recalled.
All of Sorensen’s brothers played positions such as wide receiver or tight end so from a young age, Brad was the obvious choice at quarterback for those countless games in the backyard. His mother, Roxann Sorensen, noticed his talent and made sure it wasn’t going to go to waste. She told Brad that she’d always wanted a quarterback in the family, and encouraged him to try out for quarterback as he started his freshman year of high school.
As we now know, Roxann has a good eye for quarterback talent. By the time his senior season rolled around, Brad was establishing himself as an extremely talented passer. In his senior year, Sorensen threw for over 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns, earning first team all-league honors. It was clear that Sorensen would be following in his brother’s footsteps by playing football at the next level.
For Sorensen, the next step was playing JUCO football at San Bernardio Valley College. Sorensen again won more post season honors, this time being named to the first team all Foothills Conference team after throwing for 2,280 yards and 17 touchdowns. Sorensen seemed primed to go on to continue his success in Division 1 football.
However, before Sorensen would head to BYU, he went to Spain for a two year long mission trip. There are some people that will say sitting out for two years would be a detriment to his career. Sorensen can’t help but disagree, however.
In fact, he credits much of his current success to character traits he developed during his time in Spain: “It made me a better player and a better person. I think the things I learned in Spain directly apply to football…Diligence, hard work, becoming a more mature person. Going out on my own like that forced me to grow up. That’s helped me to become more disciplined about refining my craft”.
After he completed his two years in Spain Sorensen returned to Utah, this time to attend BYU. And although he was at a program that he was thrilled to be a part of, he wasn’t totally happy. “My little brother was at BYU. I had a lot family in the area, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere at BYU. But something just wasn’t right. I was sitting on the bench, and I really had the desire to play football. I didn’t want to leave BYU, but ultimately that was the decision that I had to make” he recalled. After Sorensen spent one year as a redshirt at BYU, he decided it was time to move on.
Leaving BYU to attend Southern Utah University was one of the tougher decisions Sorensen has had to make. Fortunately, it’s proven to be the right choice. “Since I’ve gotten to SUU, everything has felt right. I’ve been able to mesh with my teammates and coaches. I really feel like this is where I should have been all along. It’s been a great fit” he said.
Based on Sorenson’s performance on the field, it’s obvious that he’s right. In 2010, his first year at SUU, he threw for a school record 3,163 yards as well as 21 touchdowns. His junior year yielded similar success, as he again threw for over 3,000 yards. In those two years he made collecting Great West Conference awards a habit, and he earned a spot on the Payton Award watch list in 2011.
With his senior year still to play, SUU’s record book is already peppered with Sorensen’s name. By the time his senior season is completed, Sorensen is likely to own every passing record in the Thunderbirds' record book.
2012 will be one of the most challenging for Sorensen yet. SUU is making the move to the Big Sky Conference, one of the toughest conferences in FCS football. The Thunderbirds’ schedule is tough, with foes like Utah State, Cal, and Montana. But although it’s a tough road, it will also give Sorensen a great chance to garner some well deserved exposure.
How has Sorensen spent the summer getting ready for his senior year? “Watching tape from my junior season, I quickly understood that while I’ve had some success, I didn’t really understand the game as well as I needed to. There was a lot about the running game and pass protection…if I understood those things better, we could have had even more success. That was my goal this offseason. Sitting down and really learning everything there is about our offense. We’ve put in hours every week, so that week to week I can check into the best play every time” he told me.
And while those hours spent in watching film are without question going to make Sorensen a better quarterback, that’s not the biggest advantage he’s bringing into the season. So what is helping to bring Sorensen and his game to the next level? His recent marriage, he said. “I got married about six months ago, and honestly I think it’s been the best football decision I’ve ever made. I get home early and my wife and I cook dinner together, so I’m eating healthier. I’m not out late getting into trouble. It’s kept me focused and in shape” Sorensen explained.
His marriage has also provided him with extra motivation for another goal: making it to the NFL. A career in the NFL would certainly allow him to provide for his family, but that’s not the only thing that drives him. SUU doesn’t have a lengthy history of getting players to the next level (just a handful of Thunderbirds have gone on to play in the NFL), but that just makes Sorensen want it more. “I obviously think about it often…It’s such a slim possibility, but it’s what has driven me this whole offseason…I have to make the most of my opportunities, and I can’t have any regrets at the end of the season. That possibility (to be drafted) has only helped me this offseason to keep working and to stay focused” he said.
Sorensen clearly has already put up the kinds of numbers that NFL scouts and GM’s love to see. But what is it specifically that he brings to the game that makes him a draftable prospect? He’s got a strong, accurate arm that jumps out on tape. But he believes he also has strengths that can sometimes go unnoticed: “One of them is my ability to avoid the rush. I can get out of trouble when guys are coming at me, and I throw the ball well when I’m on the run”. He also doesn’t see himself as a perfect prospect. In addition to improving his pre snap reads, he’s also been working on his footwork and working on his eyes post snap.
However, he doesn’t think that the transition from the shotgun heavy system at SUU to a playing under center in the NFL would be a problem. “It’s different of course (taking snaps out of the shotgun vs. being under center), but I have no problem doing it. I was under center in high school and in JUCO. I just need to continue to refine my footwork so that I can be great at it” Sorensen said.
Unless you’re a hard core follower of the draft, Brad Sorensen may not be a name that you were already familiar with. But rest assured – NFL teams are more than aware of who he is, and they’ll be keeping a close eye on him this season. As his mom saw years ago, he has the arm strength, accuracy, leadership, and dedication to improvement that every NFL team wants in their quarterback.
His on field talent is undeniable on film, but talking with him is even more impressive. While he didn't take a traditional route to becoming an NFL draft prospect, it's clear that his time he spent at the JUCO level and in Spain, as well as his redshirt year at BYU helped him develop into a college quarterback that's mature beyond his years.
All of these traits he's developed bode extremely well for the future. If he has the type of senior season he’s capable of, he’ll prove his mother right and hear his name called during the NFL Draft.