PROVO — An LDS missionary suffers a serious spider bite, then is prescribed medication that contributes to the missionary's fall off a porch. That leads to a major ankle injury, then reconstructive surgery, followed by months of recovery at the Missionary Training Center.
To BYU's Justin Sorensen, it's a set of unusual circumstances that could only happen to a kicker.
"Kickers tend to have weird things happen to them," he said, grinning.
Sorensen, a sophomore placekicker, should know because he lived it.
The former Bingham High star and 2007 Parade All-America handled kickoff duties for BYU as a freshman in 2008, then left for his mission to Georgia.
Trouble began when Elder Sorensen was bitten by a brown recluse spider on his right (kicking) leg and was admitted to the hospital.
"They gave me all kinds of prescriptions," he recalled. "As a result, I was a little out of it."
About one week later, "we were teaching a guy on his porch and I was dizzy and fell off the porch. I went to catch myself and my toe got caught. It snapped my ankle the wrong way."
Sorensen continued serving, with a walking boot on his foot, for five weeks before returning to Utah to undergo reconstructive ankle surgery. Following surgery, Sorensen continued his mission at the MTC for four months in the fall of 2009 while he recovered.
"Right during football season," he lamented.
Sorensen eventually finished up his mission and returned home on Dec. 31. Since then, he's been preparing to become the Cougars' full-time kicker this fall, replacing the graduated Mitch Payne, who kicked for BYU the past four seasons.
"I hope to be doing field goals, extra points and kickoffs," Sorensen said. "Hopefully, it's going to be a really good season. All of us that just got back from our missions are all really good friends and excited for the season."
So what it's like for a kicker when he returns from a mission?
"A lot of guys struggle mentally, trying to get all of the plays down," he said. "For me, I think I actually got better mentally on my mission. But physically, I'm still waiting for my leg to get it's 'pop' back. It's coming back pretty good."
What returns more quickly — power or accuracy?
"It's about 50-50. Initially, it was the power. I had no 'pop' in my leg," said Sorensen, who likes to get around on a unicycle. "I could kick four balls, then on the fifth ball, it would be like 20 yards shorter. Instantly, my leg would just die and have no energy in it. That was hard. But now that that's there, it's probably shifting into the accuracy, and getting that back."
In last Saturday's Blue-White scrimmage, played on a cold and snowy afternoon, Sorensen made field goals of 37 and 34 yards, but missed from 46 and 37 yards. He had a shot to kick the game-winner for the Blue team with 34 seconds, but his 37-yard attempt went wide right, forcing overtime. The White ended up winning the contest with a touchdown and two-point conversion in OT.
Meanwhile, Sorensen's powerful leg is a big weapon for BYU's defense. As a freshman, he booted 32 touchbacks, averaging 66.5 yards per kickoff.
"He can kick it a long ways and he's very accurate," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "He'll help us a bunch on kickoffs."16 comments on this story
In 2008, Sorensen injured his right quadriceps and wasn't fully healthy that season.
"I didn't do a whole lot of practicing during the week before games," he said. "I've had no problems with my right leg so far. It's been good."
As long as he can avoid brown recluse spiders, and falling off porches or unicycles or any other "weird" injuries that seem to befall kickers, Sorensen should be ready to go when fall camp opens in August.
"I really hope so," he said, "because that would be really annoying if I'm not."
Spoken like a true kicker.
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