When the long snapper is brought up in football, they have usually made a mistake. For Northwest senior Michael Sorfonden, it is less about the position and more about what it took to get there.
Sorfonden was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a form of blood and bone marrow cancer, at the age of 2. While the cure rate for ALL at the time of his diagnosis was around 85 percent, the mention of cancer to Sorfonden’s family hit hard.
“My mom’s dad, so my grandpa, he had died right before I was diagnosed from lymphoma,” Sorfonden said. “It was really tough on my parents and the rest of family because they just watched one of their loved ones pass away from cancer.”
Even though he was young, Sorfonden can recall how the treatments felt and what kind of struggle he went through as a child.
“I was so young, but I still remember so much just because of how significant it was,” Sorfonden said. “The spinal taps they would have to do, the doctors and nurses compared it to tying one leg up to a car, and your arm up to a different car, and the cars go in different directions.”
After three years of treatments, he was in remission. The battle of chemotherapy along with the day-to-day pains associated with ALL are all factors that played into Sorfonden’s mindset on and off the field.
“Everybody looks at life and looks at challenges that they have and think they have things difficult,” coach Rich Wright said. “It’s amazing to see the positive attitude that he brings to the field every day.”
Throughout his time at Harlan Community High School, where he played linebacker as well as long snapping, he became the first freshman to earn a varsity letter. Despite suffering from two broken vertebrae in his high school career, Sorfonden achieved his goal of joining the Bearcat football team in 2015.
Beginning as both a long snapper and linebacker, Sorfonden saw limited playing time through his first three seasons. Between his second and third year, he dropped the linebacker role and focus solely on long snapping.
Adjusting to the small time spent on the field was difficult at first for Sorfonden, but he said it was something he became used to.
“I struggled with it at first, but I definitely have been able to adapt my mindset to just snapping,” Sorfonden said. “It’s different staying engaged in the game as a snapper because you get one play; the punt or the PAT (point after touchdown), so that was the biggest adjustment.”
Aside from his playing time, he began a new area of interest as a graduate assistant to the student-athlete success program this year. The reasoning behind this decision has a lot to do with what Sorfonden has gone through in his life.
“It has been a blessing being in that role, because my whole life so many people have given back to me like doctors, nurses and family members through my battle with cancer,” Sorfonden said. “It is kind of my time to start giving back to others, and it is fun to be a good assistant to those guys that I am mentoring and tutoring.”
While he may not play the most glorious position on the field, Sorfonden embodies the characteristics of Bearcat football and is willing to do his one-eleventh no matter what it may be.