Tom Sorensen has waited four years for a chance to start on BYU's offensive line.
That's how long it's been since the big center left Vanderbilt, where he earned SEC all-freshman team honors, and went on an LDS mission. Upon his return, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Cougar camp in 2006, and last season he played sparingly behind Sete Aulai as he continued to strengthen his post-surgery knee.
Now, it's his time.
Sorensen has the dubious distinction of being the lone non-starter returning on BYU's offense this year. In all those preseason magazines that hit the stands this summer, they'll be hyping the fact the Cougars return 10 of 11 players on offense. It will be made to be a significant factor and predictor of success.
Then, there's Sorensen, the rookie, the lone question mark.
It's his time.
Sorensen doesn't mind. "I've waited a long, long time for this," he says. "I'm really in a great situation because the other four guys are very experienced." He's talking about Dallas Reynolds, Ray Feinga, David Oswald and Travis Bright.
Sorensen, who started eight games at Vandy, is replacing a team leader who couldn't have a more contrasting personality. Where Sorensen is a typical offensive lineman type, a kind, sensitive, happy-go lucky, friendly guy, Aulai played on the edge. He was serious as a heart attack, played with a chip on his shoulder, took things personally and often got flagged for penalties for holding or engaging in a little extra physical play.
Where Sorensen's approach will be even-keel and smooth, the guy he's replacing was on the verge of leading an insurgency.
"I learned a lot from Sete," says Sorensen, a big panda bear. "He was an aggressive player. One thing about Sete, he cared a lot, and almost too much to the point where if he was going to lose the block, he'd hold on to him.
"Nobody can fault him for caring too much, but you've gotta play by the rules."
Another thing Sorensen learned from Aulai is dedication to the mental aspect of the game. Aulai was committed to studying game film on his own, picking apart opponents, looking for an edge. Sorensen now buddies up with Reynolds to keep that tradition alive as they break loose with personal time to delve into game film.
In this regard, Sorensen says Bright (ACL) and Garrett Reden (broken leg) may not be on the field hitting this spring, but they are feeding their brains in the classroom and film sessions.
"We try to get them as much as we can," he said. "We can't do full padded stuff, but they can lift with us and watch film with us. There is no question football is a very physical game, but when you get to this level, a lot of it is mental so the more you know, the faster you can play. Doing all the classroom work and film work will help more than getting out there and re-injuring something."
Like most offensive players at BYU, Sorensen has learned the value of hanging and getting to know the Reynolds brothers. Dallas, a returning starting tackle, is manning the left tackle spot.
Matt Reynolds, a redshirt freshman and younger brother, is starting at right tackle this spring.
The Reynolds brothers seem to carry a chevron patch on their jerseys, starting with center Lance Reynolds, who finished playing several seasons ago. The Reynolds boys are the kindest, smartest, most-football savvy players on the team. Sons of assistant head coach Lance Reynolds, they're dinner table smart when it comes to the game.
"Matt is coming into his own right now, he's getting better every practice," said Sorensen. "The Reynolds brothers have always been talented players, and they're smart players, their dad has taught them well."
So, this spring football thing rumbles on toward the April 12 spring game, and Sorensen is getting used to this long-awaited starting assignment.
"I think there shouldn't be any reason our offense should sputter at any time as long as our communication is there and everything is clicking and everybody knows their role, we should be pretty good," he says.
Playing for perhaps the most experienced offense in college football this fall, Sorensen is one happy camper this spring. He's got a smile pasted on his face by 3M.And he doesn't plan on being the rookie, the weak link, the missing piece when folks look at the BYU's offensive roster and say the Cougars return 10 of 11; he's not the 11th guy, he touches the ball first.