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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Sorgi joining Wisconsin family

With 29 seconds left on the clock, the score tied at 10, UW backup quarterback Jim Sorgi launched a 45-yard pass downfield to receiver Lee Evans. The ball was caught, and Wisconsin recorded its first victory of the season over Michigan State.

With that one play last season, Sorgi showed Wisconsin a glimpse of what the team?s backup quarterback could do, and what the future would hold. And he did it in the perfect setting.

A native of Frasier, Mich., Sorgi came into the game in East Lansing when starter Brooks Bollinger suffered a concussion in the first half, and led UW to a second-half comeback in front of familiar surroundings and friendly faces.

“This is like a dream come true,” Sorgi said following last year’s victory over MSU. “To play my first game, back in Michigan, at Michigan State, with my family and friends here, and to throw the winning touchdown pass with a minute left. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

That pass may go down as the most memorable of Sorgi?s brief career thus far, but it won?t be the last play he adds to his own highlight reel. With the 45-yard game-winning pass, Sorgi showed Wisconsin that he was a force to be reckoned with, as well as considered.

The Michigan State game was the first game Sorgi saw action in as a Badger, and based on his performance, it was clear that this was just the beginning of his UW career.

With Bollinger still on the sidelines with his concussion, Sorgi was given the nod to start against Purdue and Drew Brees the game following the MSU victory. The then-freshman came up short against the Boilermakers, falling to the eventual co-Big Ten champions.

But the youngster played well, and walked away knowing that he could play with the top level of competition.

“After the Michigan State game last year, and then after the Purdue game, I had nothing but confidence,” Sorgi said.

Bollinger recovered from his injury and regained his starting role under center, but the word was out that Sorgi had the necessary amount of talent to lead the offense of his UW team.

During the off-season, all talk turned to the quarterback situation, and who would be named the starter for the 2001-02 season.

During spring workouts, offensive coordinator Brian White wouldn?t even say who was No. 1 and who was No.2. According to White, he had Bollinger as a No.1 quarterback and Sorgi as No.1A.

But eventually a decision was made, and Sorgi remained in his familiar role as the backup.

And of course, that all changed when Bollinger went down to injury again this season, this time bruising his liver against Virginia in the first game of the season.

Sorgi went on to win the game against Virginia, and showed once again why he prefers the aerial attack to the ground game. Sorgi passed for 150 yards and led UW to a 26-17 victory.

Following the win, Bollinger remained on the sidelines for the next two weeks, and Sorgi was given the nod to start both the Oregon and Fresno State games. Against Oregon, Sorgi?s offense fell short in the closing seconds of the game and lost a tough battle to the Ducks.

The next week, Sorgi started out quick against the Bulldogs, taking a 20-10 lead into halftime, only to lose it in the second half.

The loss to Fresno State hit the sophomore hard, as his record as a starter fell to 0-3. Sorgi was visibly upset following the loss, and said he had to look inward in order to find the answer to what it would take to win a game as a starter.

“I?ve helped this team more than I?ve hurt it, but in the past couple of times I?ve been [on the field] I?ve hurt this team, and I?ve got to look at myself and I?ve got to take a good long look at the man in the mirror and say, ?what can I do, what am I doing wrong, what do I have to stop doing, what do I have to start doing to help this football team,” Sorgi explained after the loss to the Bulldogs.

As Sorgi left the media after the Fresno State loss, he was comforted by the embrace of his father.

“After the Fresno State game, he was there and I was never so happy to have a family member, such as my dad, be there after a game like that,” Sorgi explained with tears in his eyes. “I just came out of the locker room and gave him a hug and it’s like the weight’s been lifted off my shoulders.”

And this wasn?t the first time Sorgi?s dad has been there for him, offering words of comfort after a tough game.

“I remember one after the Oregon game where he couldn’t make it so I called him from my cell phone on the bus,” Sorgi admitted. “I wanted to win that game so bad, I was in tears.”

And once again last weekend, after Sorgi?s comeback performance fell short in the fourth quarter, it was his dad?s voice he heard on his answering machine when he got home.

“My dad was just saying you played a great game, I’m sorry about the loss, I know you feel bad, but you played a great game,” Sorgi said.

For Sorgi, this family unit is what gets him through the tough times, and keeps things in perspective. His dad is always there to point out that he?s had some tough breaks in games, and that he can?t dwell on what?s out of his control.

“I called him [back after the Illinois game] and me and my dad talked, and I was like maybe I could have done this, or this or this, and he’s like ‘you’re going to kill yourself thinking about that,” Sorgi explained. “‘You’re in a position where you can’t do that. You’ve got to let it go, you’ve got to move on, because there’s people looking to you to lead them to a victory if you’ve got to play next week.’ And you know, my dad’s always been that kind of a guy for me, so I’m going to listen to him.”

And his dad isn’t the only one Jim listens to. A true family man at heart, Sorgi has always valued the close relationship he holds with his parents, sisters, and extended relatives.

“You can’t be closer than my family is,” Sorgi said. “We all love each other the same and as much as the next person.”

Sorgi even loves all four of his sisters, a quartet that he admits was a little hard to handle being the only brother growing up.

“I’ve always been a big brother, and I’ve always protected them,” Sorgi said. “It’s kind of rough having four sisters when you’re growing up, but when you get older you kind of start to cherish it a little bit more.”

And while his family was there last year to watch Jim defeat the hometown Spartans, Sorgi will have an entourage again this weekend when his aunt, uncle and friends make the trip to watch this year’s MSU game.

It is still not known if Sorgi will start this weekend, or if Bollinger will return to take on the Spartans, but that doesn?t really affect the way Jim is looking at this game.

Being a native of Michigan, anytime Sorgi gets the chance to go up against the Spartans or Wolverines, it is a motivating event.

“It’s kind of like another dream come true,” Sorgi said of playing against MSU again. “I’m just kind of excited to get a chance to go out there and play well against one of the teams I grew up watching.”

The Spartans were one team Jim grew up watching, but the team he really watched was the Wolverines.

“The Wolverines were just always winning, they were always in a bowl game,” Sorgi said. “You grew up wanting to play for [either Michigan or Michigan state].”

But Sorgi resisted the draw of playing in the blue and maize ? although he took a visit to both Michigan and Michigan State ? and chose Wisconsin.

Why would the Frasier native turn down an opportunity to play for the team he watched as a boy? The answer is simple, and one that has directed his whole life ? family.

“Coach Alvarez said we want you to join our family, and I’m a big family man,” Sorgi explained. “The way he put it, it sounded like this was where I belonged.”

So when Sorgi faces Michigan and Michigan State now, they are no longer the teams he cheered for as a child ? they’re Big Ten competitors.

And when Michigan State comes to Wisconsin this weekend, the 45-yard touchdown pass will be in the minds of the players ? at least those of Sorgi and Evans.

The catch was memorable, and for more reasons than one. It won the game for the Badgers, giving them their first victory of the season, and it brought to light the talented arm of a backup quarterback. The win over MSU sparked a wave of confidence in Jim Sorgi, something that a few bad breaks on the field couldn?t dim.

And he just hopes to get the chance to build on that again this week against the team that it all started with.

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