PROVO — Ask BYU placekicker Justin Sorensen about his unusual variety of medical issues since he joined the Cougar football program, and he can tell you plenty of stories.
“I’ve got a pretty good list,” Sorensen said with a smile. “I’ve got some good battle wounds.”
For instance, as a freshman in 2008, he played with an injured right quadriceps. Then he left on an LDS mission to Georgia and suffered a series of bizarre setbacks. He was bit by a brown recluse spider on his right leg and was admitted to the hospital. Doctors gave him several prescriptions, and a week later, he fell off a porch and fractured his ankle, which required reconstructive surgery.
Then, after returning from a mission, he dealt with a back injury and underwent surgery in February 2012. While he was the Cougars’ kicker for most of last season, he wasn’t close to 100 percent.
So it’s important to note that for the first time since 2008, Sorensen feels healthy.
And it shows.
These days the senior from South Jordan is looking more like his old self — the guy who earned 2007 Parade All-America honors at Bingham High, where he once booted a state-record 62-yard field goal.
The way he feels now compared to past years, Sorensen said, is “night and day. Literally last year, I didn’t kick during fall camp. I started kicking the week of our first game last year. I had a seven- or eight-month break since the last time I kicked. This year, I’ve been kicking since right after the season, heavy in spring ball, and the last three months of summer, it’s been a daily thing. I feel great.
"This was my first healthy offseason that I’ve ever had. Cross my fingers, I’m hoping this will be my first fall camp that I’ll be able to participate every day, doing what I like to do.”
Another difference is that Sorensen has had competition from teammates, as BYU brought in two kickers for fall camp — freshman Vance “Moose” Bingham from Alta High, and junior Trevor Samson, a junior college transfer. That wasn’t surprising, considering that Sorensen hit just 6 of 12 field goals last season.
Sorensen has welcomed the competition.
“It’s awesome. It really is,” he said. “There’s that competitive side of it. But it’s very motivating to watch other guys kick. You never want to be the one that does bad. You have those two guys go out and have them not only make a field goal, but go high and straight down the middle. When it’s just me, it’s like, ‘It squeaked in, but it went in. Anyone else?’ There’s no one else to say anything or critique you. You always want to be kicking — not just to make field goals but to make them perfectly. Those guys are my coaches, as much as anything. They’re going to tell me if I have a bad day and what I’m doing wrong. They’re very helpful.”
On Friday, Sorensen drilled 2 of 3 field goals from 43 yards.
“Justin Sorensen is separating himself over the last couple of days,” said coach Bronco Mendenhall. “That gap is widening, not narrowing. He’s doing a really nice job.”
For BYU starting safety Daniel Sorensen, it’s been refreshing to see his cousin healthy.
“I think Justin looks pretty good. His body’s feeling good,” Daniel said. “He’s had a full year to recover (from back surgery). I think he’s going to be really good for us this year. I’ve heard a lot of comments from the guys that Justin looks really good. He’s kicking really well. I think the team has confidence in him. We have some other great kickers, too. The kicking game as a whole has stepped up a lot.”
Justin Sorensen is not feeling back pain anymore. He’s simply happy to be kicking the football again, and feeling normal again.
“I could kick a 60-yarder if I had to. Hopefully, I won’t have to,” Sorensen said. “I feel healthy enough that I could.”
Yes, this fall camp has been very different for him. “Yeah, very different,” Sorensen said. “It’s been ideal.”
Going into his final season in Provo, Sorensen wants to kick the way he knows he can.
“This season, I want to be perfect. I never want to let my team down when they’re counting on me to go out and make a kick, whenever it is,” he said. “If we’re up by 60 points and we’re kicking a 20-yarder from the middle, I want it to be the same as if it’s a game-winner when we’re down by two and it’s 50 yards. Whenever they need me, I want to be able to perform my best. That’s essentially my goal for my senior year.”
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company