Tom Sorensen, Steelers Kicker, 1970
First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself these days and how you got involved?
For the last twenty-plus years I have coached and tutored as an avocation while working full-time in law enforcement and other endeavors. When I retired four years ago I was fortunate to become a specialized educational coach/tutor with the Dan Marino Foundation/Child Provider Specialist team through Miami Children’s Hospital in Weston, Florida.
They continually trained me for the four years of tutoring ADD/ADHD/ Autistic spectrum students that I was assigned. The results of these assignments were extremely successful. We had to relocate to Jacksonville in December 2012 due to my wife’s profession, so I am trying to get involved in the same type of educational coaching here.
You’ve done a lot of coaching – what lessons from your Steelers days and coaches have you found yourself applying to your coaching?
The main thing that I promote is the idea that if you really want to achieve a goal and you make it your priority, you will become successful.
You played for the ACFL in the late 60’s – which was a farm system for the NFL then. Do you think the NFL could use a farm system today?
The system was great for its time, but the NFL found out that the colleges could be their farm system and they would not have to pay for it. The concept of amateurism should be brought back to sports, but that’s a whole other discussion.
You were the kicker for the Montreal Alouettes – what happened in Montreal that brought you to Pittsburgh?
There was a quota for U.S. citizens at the time, and I was to be cut or have to play another position, so the Coach-Sam Etchevary, a great guy – made a call to people he knew in Pittsburgh and I was soon contacted by them.
What brought you to play for the Steelers and how did the team bring you in to play for the team?
I was brought in for a day of try out at Forbes Field with a couple of assistant coaches. I did some running, and field goals, and kickoffs for them , and they signed me. I got to personally be signed by the original Mr. Rooney, in the old hotel downtown. He gave me a cigar , wished me luck, and gave me a room key for the night. What a thrill!
What was the mindset of the players then in terms of helping teammates – who helped you adjust to the team?
Everyone from the equipment manager to coach Noll and his assistants were very helpful.
Who are some of the most memorable characters on those Steelers teams and what made them so – any fun stories from your time there?
Of course the most memorable for me was that Terry Bradshaw had his locker next to mine.
The equipment manager was always playing tricks. He tried to get me to take this helmet that was way too big. It had a large dent in it – it had been Greene’s!! Everyone got a laugh out of that.
There was also the saga of Bradshaw driving his pink Cadillac to meals, and complaining that he wanted his name painted on it – the linemen didn’t much care for that – but all that settled down quickly.
I’ll also never forget being on the sidelines during practice and watching Bradshaw throw a 50/60 yd pass on a straight line and hit the receivers hands so hard you could hear the bang. I had never seen anyone throw like that – soon the NFL would find out!!
Of course the singing during meals.
The best part was the number of fans who came out for practices and their encouragement.
What are your best memories of your time in Pittsburgh?
The fans. They seem to never forget. Pittsburgh is a great place.
You’ve been actively involved with the NFL Alumni Association, including acting as President of the Florida and Carolina chapters. How did that begin?
I was the founding president of the NFLPA retired chapter in South Florida many years ago. I also founded the Carolina Chapter in the late 90’s. I was one of the original members of the Alumni South Florida Chapter. We did a lot of fund-raising, motivational speaking and golf tournaments for Boys and Girls, MS, Marty Lyons, Cancer, Palm Beach County Sports Commission, etc.
The ain idea was to give back to the community. When I was active, I tried to get the Alumni and the PA to work together, but that was never successful.
Are you happy with the new CBA- what more should the NFL do for retired players in regards to both pensions and health benefits?
I believe the NFL retirement/benefit situation should be on a par with the MLB.
What can the active players do to help, and why do you think they aren’t doing more currently for retired players – especially some of the players that played in the 60’s and 70’s?
It s all a money thing now – In the early years, the players were a different breed.
Any last thoughts for readers?
After I recovered from my knee surgeries, I played rugby for fourteen years all through the US and Caribbean and England. I had to stop that as well due to injury.
My thoughts are that I miss the fans – particularly Pittsburgh – and only wish I would have done a better job during my brief stay with the Steelers.