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This is a story I seem to tell every year on the opening Sunday of the NFL season. And I’m going to tell it again, because it’s a great story and one I’ll never tire of either telling or hearing.
If you’re a college football player and you got released in the last wave of NFL cuts, today’s probably not your day. After playing football every day of your life, you’re sitting at home watching. And you’re wondering if your football days are over.
Which takes to me to the subject of a Virginia Tech player named Nick Sorensen.
I worked at Rowe Furniture back in 2001 up here in Northern Virginia. My office was right around the corner from that of Nick’s Dad, and as any proud papa would, we talked about Nick a lot. Nick had signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins and stayed with the team right up to the last cut. Then he got the call that he was released.
Nick had no idea what his future would hold. But at least for this football season, he decided he was going to stay ready. He worked out every day at a local high school. He’d come by the office and see his Dad some times and I’d ask him what he was going to do. He had no specific reason to be optimistic, but he just knew if the phone ever did ring, he had to be in shape and he had to be ready.
He worked out every day as if the phone WOULD ring.
Week after week, he worked out. And week after week, the phone did not ring. It wasn’t until about 8 weeks into the season he got a call to come try out for a possible spot on the practice squad of the St. Louis Rams. He was looked at only as a special teamer, and a special teamer on a practice squad is about the lowest of the low on the NFL hierarchy. But he’d be on a team.
He got the gig. And while he expected to be on the practice squad the rest of the season, he didn’t expect an injury to occur to another member of the Rams a few weeks later. This resulted in Nick being elevated to the regular NFL roster. The Rams, if you will remember, were the greatest show on turf back then. And as a special teamer on the regular roster, that meant on February 3, 2002 when Super Bowl XXXVI kicked off, on the field for the opening kickoff was No. 41, Nick Sorensen.
The man went from sitting in an office in Tysons Corner entertaining me and his Dad, to playing in a Super Bowl in less than 3 months.
All because he was ready.
In fact, if you ever look at one of the more famous replays in the history of the Super Bowl – Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48-yard field goal to win the game for the Patriots – you’ll see No. 41 charging in from the right side of the picture, coming within an inch of blocking the kick.
Nick then made a roster again the next year. And again the year after that. He played in the NFL for 10 years, then became a coach. He’s currently a secondary coach for the Seattle Seahawks, and will probably spend his entire working life in the NFL.
All because he stayed ready in case the phone rang.
So every year when I see talented athletes get released on the last cutdown day of the NFL pre-season, I know some people might think this is the end of football for those players.
Then I think about Nick Sorensen and realize it’s not the end. It’s just the beginning.