If Ever There Was A Textbook Example Of Never Giving Up On Your Dream…


As I normally do on a Saturday morning, I got a cup of coffee, fired up the X-machine and went looking for news I’d missed overnight. Among the items I saw of interest was the San Francisco 49ers hiring Nick Sorensen as their defensive coordinator.

Which caused me to break into an enormous smile.

If you don’t know the story of Nick Sorensen, you need to. It is a textbook story of encountering disappointment, but never quitting.

I think most know Nick was a great athlete, recruited to Virginia Tech as a possible quarterback out of George C. Marshall High School up here in Northern Virginia. He played some at QB, starting a few games in 1998, but then a young man from Newport News named Michael Vick came to town and Nick moved over to the defensive side of the ball, becoming an excellent defensive back and special teams player. He played in the national championship game in the Super Dome, and a year later, graduated and signed with the Miami Dolphins.

I worked at Rowe Furniture back in 2001 (which is what got me to Ashburn, where I still live). 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. Every day seemed to be a conversation as to whether Nick would stick with the Dolphins, but as the final cuts were made, Nick got a call from the team. He had been 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 was a secondary coach in Seattle for 8 years, then coached at Jacksonville a year before joining the 49ers staff in 2022.

So after the league told him long ago he wasn’t good enough, Nick went on to have 10 years as a player in the NFL. 11 years as a coach. And today’s he’s the defensive coordinator for one of the best teams in the league.

All because he stayed ready in case the phone rang.


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