I attended Southern Utah University, an FCS school in, well, southern Utah. A little college town named Cedar City, to be exact. My path toward SUU began when I was in 8th grade and a school counselor asked me, "Where are you going to college?" When I replied I didn't know, he said, "I'll tell you where you'll go to college. Whatever school offers you a scholarship." That statement changed my life, because it helped me stay focused on my academics in high school. I played and loved football, but I also knew that as a 160 pound offensive lineman, I wasn't going to be playing at the college level. Still, it was football that led me to my eventual alma mater.
My high school football coach was a 4-year starter at QB for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. At the time he was coaching, he still held every passing record in the school's book. He took the team to a week-long football camp at SUU during the summer before my junior year. I fell in love with the campus immediately. When I got home I told my mom, "I know where I'm going to college." I was already making plans to major in English and gain a teaching certificate. It just so happened that SUU's two claims to fame are its excellent teacher education program and the annual Shakespearean Festival, which draws thousands of visitors from across the nation. It seemed like a perfect fit.
And really, it was a great fit. I'm proud to be a Southern Utah graduate. The students in my class know exactly where I attended college because I talk about it frequently. But the football fan in me wasn't satisfied. We got a new coach the year I started and he posted a respectable 6-5 record that first season. His teams would go a combined 5-28 for the rest of the time I attended the school. They posted an 0-11 mark during my last year there. And really, there were few who cared. The fans were unenthusiastic at best, completely apathetic at worst. After four years, I was leaving town with a degree, and the head football coach was leaving town too, also after four years. When I think about football futility, I think to myself, I don't even know my own alma mater's fight song. We never scored enough for me to learn it. We had a linebacker go pro, a guy named Marques Harris, but he was only the second T-Bird to appear in the NFL. The first had been in 1977. Yeah, this definitely was not a football school.
A new coach came on the year after I left, and things started to turn upward. He rebuilt (or just built?) the program. By 2010 (I won't say how long after me that was) there was a star QB in town. His name was Brad Sorensen, and he had transferred from BYU after being buried on the depth chart. (As an avid BYU football fan, I can tell you that most Cougar fans would have loved to have him around during those years. He was probably a better option than what stayed in Provo after he left. Quarterback evaluation was an Achilles' heel for the coaching staff.) During Sorensen's senior season, I attended a game and overheard an opposing player tell a traveling fan that they would be facing a quarterback who had NFL talent. I overheard this conversation on the stadium concourse before the game. The stadium really is small enough that players and fans sometimes wind up mingling together. Sorensen proved his opponent correct by becoming the first player from Southern Utah University to be drafted in the NFL, going in the 7th round, 221st overall, to the Chargers. It may have only been the 7th round, but a selection is a selection, and he was the first.
To my knowledge, no other SUU alum has any football cards. So I have a goal to get as many Brad Sorensen cards into my collection as possible. There aren't too many. They were all produced in 2013and that's it. My collection is small right now, as no trader seems to have them and my budget has mostly been spent trying to complete some sets. But I daresay that I am probably the only collector out there with a Brad Sorensen PC, so keep me in mind if you run across any.
Oddly enough, come next week, three other fellow T-Birds are likely going to join Sorensen in the NFL, becoming the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th SUU players to be drafted. Miles Killebrew and James Cowser--who broke Jared Allen's all-time FCS sack record--could go as high as the 2nd or 3rd round, while Leshaun Sims should have his name called before all is said and done. I might just be looking for cards of them as they come, too. And who knows, maybe my alma mater will become a football school, after all. I'm not holding my breath.