When Brendan Sorsby was a freshman at Lake Dallas High School in Corinth, Texas, he planned on playing the same position he did in eighth grade: quarterback.
But there was a problem.
“I forgot how to play quarterback,” Sorsby said. “Couldn't throw a football.”
Lake Dallas head football coach Jason Young said his offense ran veer options and other concepts never seen before, in large part because of Sorsby’s struggles. In that moment, playing at the next level wasn’t even a consideration.
“If you would have seen him as a freshman physically – if somebody told you he was going to be a Division I quarterback — you would have laughed,” Young told the Indiana Daily Student. “He was way underdeveloped. I mean, just physically, mentally, he was pretty crazy.”
Some five years later, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound redshirt freshman sat inside Memorial Stadium’s Henke Hall of Champions on Oct. 30, two days removed from leading Indiana’s offense to a near-upset on the road against No. 10 Penn State.
The road to that point had been anything but simple, both this season and throughout his football career.
As a middle schooler, Sorsby played running back. He learned an appreciation for sport’s physical aspect. He now tells teammates he enjoys being hit – and he means it.
“I like to get hit, I like to deliver hits,” Sorsby said. “That's the fun of playing football.”
Sorsby didn’t lose sight of that fun, even while he went through his struggles as a passer. He continued to play, transitioning to receiver as a sophomore while maturing and getting closer to returning to his previous level of play as a signal caller.
During his junior season, Sorsby served as a receiver and backup quarterback – but late in the year, he seized the starting job and never looked back.
“He was starting to get big and athletic,” Young said. “He pretty much just took over at quarterback. He proved what he can do and ran from there.”
Sorsby shined in his senior campaign, earning Denton Record-Chronicle 2021 Quarterback of the Year. However, few colleges showed interest in the late bloomer who broke his throwing hand his senior year, costing him valuable playing time. Indiana stood alone as his only Power 5 offer. Army and Navy were the only other Football Bowl Subdivision teams to extend a scholarship.
“I was telling all those guys, ‘Listen, this guy’s unbelievable, you’ve got to just take a chance on him,’ and nobody would,” Young said. “But thank God Indiana did.”
Indiana head coach Tom Allen believed in Sorsby; he liked his potential and embraced the unknown that arose from his relatively low quantity of experience under center.
“Didn't have a quarterback guy that he had been working with since he was a kid. Some guys have that, especially from Texas,” Allen said. “But just saw a guy that had a lot of upside but also a lot of questions, probably to be resolved in game when you're going to get hit. That's what you don't know. How are you going to respond?”
The Hoosiers saw exactly the response from Sorsby they’d hoped for against Penn State.
After holding a 14-7 lead with just over two minutes to play in the second quarter, the Hoosiers suddenly found themselves down 24-14 halfway through the third quarter. Sorsby’s last pass had been intercepted. The Nittany Lions were having their way on both sides of the ball.
Needing momentum, Sorsby dropped back to pass but decided to run instead. He lowered his shoulder, took a hit, then another. The result was a five-yard gain, but it resonated with teammates and coaches.
That play was the first that came to mind for Indiana offensive coordinator Rod Carey when discussing Sorsby’s physicality.
“He took off and ran, and he took a big shot, and he popped right back up,” Carey said. “I think that shows everybody on that field with him what he’s willing to do, because they’re doing it the whole time, too.”
Indiana fifth-year senior receiver DeQuece Carter, who caught a 90-yard touchdown pass from Sorsby in Happy Valley, had a different play in mind to illustrate the toughness his signal caller showed.
On the Hoosiers’ second offensive drive, Sorsby took off on 3rd and 9. He gained only four yards before being forcefully shoved out of bounds. Carter thought the officials would consider throwing a penalty. Sorsby was already onto the next play.
“I looked in his eyes,” Carter said. “He looked up and he had the next play going. I was kind of shocked and pretty impressed by that.”
The conviction Carter saw in Sorsby’s eyes told him all he needed to know about the redshirt freshman’s toughness.
“It was just kind of a fierce look,” Carter said. “I was expecting him to be a little dazed, but he looked like he was ready to go, so I was ready to go with him.”
Sorsby proceeded to complete 13-of-19 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs. It was his third career start, second since taking over for fellow redshirt freshman Tayven Jackson and first on the road.
Indiana senior running back Josh Henderson said Sorsby dominated from the start and played free. He also played without fear and, as Carey said, his teammates noticed.
“Gets us fired up for sure,” Henderson said. “Not a lot of quarterbacks are willing to lower the shoulder. To have one like that, to show that he's not afraid to lower his shoulder to keep the drives going, it's a momentum thing for us. We feed off his energy for sure.”
Sorsby was an all-district baseball player in high school, starring both at the plate and in the field after being persuaded to join because of his big arm. He joked he was more of a strike-thrower than a high-velocity pitcher.
The baseball background has occasionally led to inconsistent mechanics, but it has also enabled him to change arm angles and make throws others can’t. Carter noted Sorsby’s arm talent but said his running ability is what’s changed Indiana’s offense – alongside his fiery persona.
“We go back and look at it on film, Coach pauses and he's like, ‘that's a guy right there who’s doing everything he can to help us win,’” Carter said. “So, I respect that, and I think it'll be good for us moving forward.”
The Hoosiers are watching Sorsby grow up right before their eyes. Young saw the same thing at Lake Dallas.
There’s still lots to clean up. Allen noted he needs to speed up reads, improve as a decision maker and get the ball out quicker.
But in Sorsby, Indiana found a big, athletic, strong-armed quarterback unafraid to put his body on the line for victory – and he’s seized hold of a leadership role while inspiring confidence the best is yet to come.
“It's fantastic, and it shows a lot of promises for his future,” sixth-year senior guard and team captain Mike Katic said. “Just the way he carries himself, his leadership skills, it's rare to see that in a young guy like him, especially with a lot of older guys around him. So, that gets us all excited about his future.”