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Jaren Wilkey/BYU
BYU quarterback Joe Critchlow calls out instructions during the Cougars' 31-21 win over UNLV on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
It’s amazing that he’s getting this chance at the end of the season. This only builds momentum going into the offseason, but it doesn’t mean anything for next year. —Brad Sorensen

PROVO — When he spent a short stint as a quarterback for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans in 2014, Brad Sorensen met, and lived with, an LDS family in Franklin, Tennessee.

The high school-aged son was the quarterback on the football team. Sorensen watched the big, red-headed kid play and saw something special in him. The two had a lot in common and they struck up a friendship.

That QB, Joe Critchlow, is a BYU freshman who made his first start, and helped guide the Cougars to a win over UNLV, last Friday.

Sorensen is the older brother of former Cougar safety, and current Kansas City Chief, Daniel Sorensen. Brad, who retired from football in 2016 after three years in the NFL, watched the BYU-UNLV game intently from his home in Utah County.

What were his impressions of Critchlow’s performance?

“I wasn’t all that surprised. Those that know him know that he’s capable of this,” Sorensen said. “It had been a few years since he had started a game. I know how that feels because I served a mission, too. It’s one thing to do it in practice but it’s another to do it in a game. You wonder if it’s going to come back to you. He settled into the game really nice. The coaches gave him some easy completions early in the game. When he threw his first touchdown pass, I was jumping up and down.”

At the same time, Sorensen, who spent the 2009 season at BYU (though he never played), before transferring to Southern Utah and becoming a seventh-round NFL draft pick, is quick to tamp down expectations.

“I would be overly cautious to start to crown this guy as the next great BYU quarterback. It was one game,” Sorensen said. “It could be detrimental to his mindset if everybody’s saying he’s arrived. UNLV’s not the greatest test as an opponent. Nonetheless, it was great for him to get win for the team and to move the football and the offense looked good with five solid scoring drives. Everything looked different with him on the field. If anything, he has to prove more this week and the next week. He’s set a standard for his play going forward. He’s just getting started. He played well but that’s against UNLV. Let’s see what he does next week (Saturday against UMass).”

Shortly returning home from his mission to Montreal, Canada, last June, Critchlow arrived in Provo and Sorensen had him over for dinner. They’ve exchanged text messages during the season. Sorensen attended the Boise State game, when Critchlow made his collegiate debut late in the fourth quarter. They talked afterward.

“Brad Sorensen’s a really great friend,” Critchlow said. “He’s been a great influence on me. He had a similar path coming out of high school. I feel like we play pretty similarly as well. He’s always been able to give me an amount of confidence with how I play.”

UMass (3-7) at BYU (3-8)

Saturday, 1 p.m. MDT LaVell Edwards Stadium

TV: BYUtv

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

Like Critchlow, Sorensen received a lot of interest from college teams in high school until he let coaches know he planned to serve a mission. Critchlow chose to play for SUU out of high school but when the T-birds’ then-head coach Ed Lamb joined Kalani Sitake’s staff at BYU in 2016, Critchlow eventually decided to play for the Cougars.

Critchlow spent six months of getting back into shape and working diligently in practice. The BYU coaching staff turned to Critchlow when starter Tanner Mangum went down with a season-ending Achilles injury and backup Beau Hoge re-aggravated a toe injury earlier this month.

“This is like a tryout for Joe. There are dozens of quarterbacks that have gone through BYU that hasn't gotten the opportunity Joe has gotten,” Sorensen said. “I was on the wrong side of that. What a fantastic opportunity for Joe. You’re talking about a walk-on, freshman quarterback getting this opportunity. It’s amazing that he’s getting this chance at the end of the season. This only builds momentum going into the offseason, but it doesn’t mean anything for next year. To come in at the end of the season, it shows he’s been preparing very well throughout the year, which isn’t always easy being a backup. He looked very comfortable in the huddle calling plays. You didn’t see any fumbled snaps or delay of game penalties. He needs to continue with that. He needs to keep working like he’s the fourth-string quarterback. Joe needs to take this opportunity and not let any moment go for granted. He needs to make every play count. These reps are invaluable. This could be a tremendous springboard for the rest of his career.”

Like a lot of people, Sorensen is looking forward to see how Critchlow’s career plays out.

“I feel like this guy is like my younger brother. I have a real interest in this guy succeeding. I was super-excited to see how he played,” he said. “But at the same time, I look at it from a different perspective from having played the position. I think he’s got lot of potential and a bright future ahead of him. I think the best is yet to come. We got a snapshot of what he could be. Just six months off a mission, he’s leading scoring drives, which BYU hasn’t done much of this year. It’s going to be fun to watch.”