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October 12, 2009

Sorensen's stellar special teams play keeps him in the NFL

By: Jimmy Robertson

Photo courtesy of John Reid/The Cleveland BrownsNick Sorensen has played for four NFL teams, but is in his third year with the Cleveland Browns.

Nick Sorensen has traveled all over the world, visiting such places as China, Japan, Italy, Panama and, this summer, Ireland.

In the past eight years, he’s been to American cities such as Miami, St. Louis, Jacksonville and Cleveland. That particular list of cities may not seem overly glamorous, but Sorensen loves each one of them because each one has kept him in his beloved profession – football.

Maybe not the most athletic of football players to play in the 2000 national championship game, Sorensen is one of only four former Tech players left who played in that game to be also playing in the NFL (Michael Vick, Shayne Graham and André Davis). He currently toils in Cleveland, where he serves as a backup at both safety spots and as a standout on special teams.

“Heck no,” Sorensen said when asked if he ever thought he’d be in the NFL for nine years. “Are you kidding me? I was just trying to make a practice squad. Every year, I’ve just been happy to be somewhere.

“I’ve always taken this year-to-year. I’ve never had a long-term outlook and I think that’s helped me. I do everything I can to make the team each year, because, as you probably know, you can get cut at any moment in this league.”

Sorensen and Graham are the second-longest tenured Hokies in the NFL behind Pierson Prioleau, who has been in the league for 11 seasons and currently plays for the Saints. Yet Sorensen is the best story among them.

The former Tech safety signed with Miami as an undrafted free agent following the 2000 college season, but was cut in camp. He landed with St. Louis in 2001 and spent two seasons there, playing in a Super Bowl (the Rams lost to New England). The Rams cut him after two seasons, but he landed with Jacksonville in September of 2003. He spent nearly four seasons there before the Jaguars cut him in August of 2007. He signed with Cleveland in week 6 of that season, and last year, inked a three-year deal with the Browns, which should keep him in Cleveland through the 2010 season.

All told, he’s been waived four times – but landed with another team every single time.

“I’ve questioned myself a lot,” Sorensen said. “I’ve been cut a few times, and there were times when I thought, ‘Man, is this it? Am I done?’

“But I’ve always felt confident of my abilities. I knew I could be productive somewhere, but sometimes; things are beyond your control. That’s why I go into every offseason saying, ‘Alright, let’s get this right again. Let’s start training.’

“I’ve been blessed. I really have. I’ve had some good opportunities and I’ve made the most of them.”

Sorensen’s best season came a year ago with the Browns when he tallied 17 tackles, including one for a loss, and a half of a sack. He added an extra 11 tackles on special teams.

Sorensen really earns his keep with his play on special teams. He plays on all the Browns coverage and return units.

“I love special teams – I just love football, period,” he said. “But special teams is why I’ve been able to keep a job. I thoroughly enjoy it. It’s a whole different unit, a different part of the game. There’s a lot of technique involved. A lot goes into it, so much more than people probably think.

“It’s all about being productive in this league. That’s the bottom line. I have to be a difference-maker on special teams. No matter what position, you have to make plays. If you lose a majority of your one-on-one battles, you’re not going to be around very long.”

It also helps that Sorensen ranks as one of the smarter players in the league. He understands the game. It makes sense to him, and coaches in the NFL would rather have smart players than tremendous athletes with no clue about the game.

“I think being smart has helped me,” he said. “The one way not to make a team is to not know what you’re doing. You might be fast and strong, but if you’re blocking the wrong guy, it doesn’t matter how strong you are.”

About the only thing lacking in Sorensen’s life these days are wins – the Browns have struggled mightily out of the gate under new coach Eric Mangini. But he loves Cleveland, particularly the fan base.

“The people here are nice,” he said. “This is a huge sports town. They haven’t had a major championship here in 40-50 years or so, but they still love the Browns, the Cavs and the Indians. It’s just the type of town you want to play in as a player. Jacksonville didn’t have the crazy atmosphere that you want. I really like it here. Hopefully, I can be here for a while.”