Nov. 26, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- On any given day, UW senior linebacker Blake Sorensen might be on the phone with his older brother Brett. Or his older brother Bart. Or his older brother Ben. Or maybe all of the above.
Together, they make up the Sorensen Brotherhood with a capital B.
Brett, 30, works for Wells Fargo in Minneapolis.
Bart, 28, is in grad school at the University of Minnesota.
Ben, 26, is an engineer in Minneapolis.
Blake, 22, is a senior who will graduate with a degree in consumer science in May.
“I talk to all three of them almost every day,” said Blake, the youngest of Ken and Susan Sorensen’s four children. “They’ve all influenced me, and they’re pretty special.”
All four boys played high school football in Eden Prairie, Minn.
“I got beat up pretty good as a kid,” Blake said with a smile. “I think that’s why I ended up being the athlete in the family. They kind of motivated me. I’m glad that they’re around me.
“When they call, we’ll talk about kind of everything. We talk about football, but we talk about a lot of other stuff. It’s kind of nice to get away from football sometimes and that’s what they’re good at.”
There was the hint of a smile again when he said, “They definitely keep me level-headed.”
When No. 9 Blake Sorensen is introduced before Saturday’s kickoff against Northwestern, he will be greeted at midfield by Ken and Susan and Brett and Bart and Ben.
“It will probably be pretty emotional,” he said. “My mom and dad have gone to every game except one when my mom was in a wedding my sophomore year. They’ve been awesome.
“They’ve all been part of my life for so long – they’ve always been there for me. I know they’ve gotten enjoyment out of watching me play. I take that seriously and I enjoy making them proud.”
Sorensen was reminded that he could have been playing in his final regular season game for the Wildcats and not against them. He verbally committed to Northwestern before having a change of heart.
“It was tough telling coach (Pat) Fitzgerald,” he said of decommitting and signing with the UW. “But he’s a stand-up guy – about as good of a guy as you’re going to meet – and I appreciated that.”
Sorensen lettered as a true freshman while seeing most of his action on special teams.
“Looking at it (his career) now, I’d love to play another year,” he said of not taking a redshirt. “But at the same time I really enjoyed playing as a freshman. It’s something I don’t regret at all.”
Graduating in four years was a goal and a rarity in today’s landscape. “It was something my parents stressed and it was important to me,” he said. “Taking summer classes was big.”
Taking inventory of his football skills was equally significant.
“I feel like every year I’ve improved a lot – I’ve come a lot way,” he said.
Nine of his 12 career starts have come this season. Sorensen, the second-leading tackler on the defense, had a career-high 10 tackles in Wisconsin’s victory over No. 1-ranked Ohio State.
And his interception helped seal the outcome in the closing seconds. “I should have kept that ball but the ref was calling for it,” he said with a smirk. “If I get another pick, I’m definitely keeping it.”
Sorensen has a good sense of humor but he bristles at the suggestion that he’s merely a utility player; a spare part.
“It’s gotten old – the ‘Put Blake in there and he’ll hold down the position until the other guy comes back,’” he said. “I got offended after a while. It has been kind of a bad stereotype.”
Don’t get him wrong. He doesn’t mind being called trustworthy and reliable.
“But I wanted to be someone you could depend on to make some plays,” he said.
Chris Borland’s season-ending injury opened the door for Sorensen, who has taken advantage of the increased playing time to carve out his own identity on what has been an opportunistic unit.
“I wouldn’t say I felt pressure,” he said of Borland being sidelined. “I was excited. I really didn’t know what my role was going to be coming into this year. I knew I’d contribute in some way.
“Obviously, it’s been a larger role so I’ve been happy with it. I feel a lot more comfortable. Last year, I was just out there. This year, I feel like I’ve been more productive.
“Coach (Dave) Doeren has been great. I’ve learned over the years nobody wants to win more than he does. He challenges us. I can’t think of anyone who does a better job preparing his players.”
There’s no level of preparation that will safeguard a tackler against someone like Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, whose explosiveness is well-documented.
Sorensen thought he had a good tackling angle on Robinson who executed the equivalent of a basketball cross-over dribble during a short touchdown run last Saturday in Ann Arbor.
“If I had that play over again,” he said, “he’d probably beat me nine out of 10 times. I think my ankles are still in Michigan Stadium. As long as you win, you can laugh about that type of stuff.”
The Badgers have had smiles on their faces since the Big Ten opener at Michigan State.
“We knew we had a good team,” Sorensen said, “but I’d say the loss to Michigan State made the guys realize that we all have to be on the same page. That was the turning point in the season.”
Since then, the Badgers have played with a little swagger. Sorensen played on back-to-back state championship teams at Eden Prairie. And the same feeling that he had then he has now.
“You go into a game feeling that you’re going to win,” he said.
But there’s still work to do – starting with Senior Day against Northwestern. With a victory, the Badgers can earn a share of the Big Ten championship regardless of what anybody else does.
“This isn’t just about Senior Day,” Sorensen insisted. “It’s about the team. This is an important game for everyone, not just the seniors. This opportunity doesn’t come along very often.”