A Shining New Wingback
The transition from glamor and glory to gore and guts is never an easy one. It's tough for a football player accustomed to the spotlight to move into a role with less prestige and recognition.
But that's what wingback George Sorbara has had to do, and he's done it well.
Sorbara is a key element of Harvard Coach Joe Restic's Multiflex system, in which the wingback blocks to set up open spaces through which the fullback and halfback can run.
The Crimson running game has yielded two of the Ivy League's best running backs this year in Robert Santiago and Mark Vignali, and Sorbara is a major reason for that success.
One would expect such performance from a starter, but how about from a sophomore starter? The 6-ft., 180-lb. Naples, Fla. native is the only member of the Class of '87 to start on offense for Harvard, and if this season is any indication, he'll have his starting spot for a couple more years.
Last year, Sorbara played halfback on the freshman team. While Harvard's well-known Multiflex is a very complicated system, says Sorbara, "They took it slowly, and I caught on quickly."
In his first year with the Harvard program, he gained 273 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns to lead the Yardlings in TDs.
After such a good season, Sorbara-set his sights on the varsity squad.
"After freshman year, I talked to [offensive backfield] Coach [Larry] Glueck and he said to go out and expect to start," says Sorbara. "I put my mind to it, and that's what happened."
In spring practice, Sorbara injured his shoulder, but didn't give up. "The only thing I was worried about was getting a shot at playing," he recalls. When the injury healed, he continued to aim for his goal.
At fall practice, Sorbara was moved to wingback, where he's been ever since, Its been quite a change for someone used to running the ball often, but he accepts the position as his contribution to the team.
"There's more blocking [at wingback]," he says, "but whatever I can to do to help the team, that's what I'll play."
And, my, how that blocking has helped the Cantabs' offensive threat this season. Santiago and Vignali have rushed for more than 600 yards apiece.
"The rushing yardage we have is a direct result of George's blocking," says Glueck, adding, "Everyone appreciates your wingback when he blocks as well as George blocks."
"He's had to learn a totally different system," says Vignali. "He's come in and fit in."
But Sorbara hasn't gone it alone.
"Coach Restic and Coach Glueck have been really fair and really helpful," he says. "And vigs and Robert have been great. They've been really friendly, which is important to me as a sophomore."
As this season has progressed, so has Sorbara, says Glueck, who seems impressed with his accomplishments. "He's adjusted very well," Glueck says. "Being a sophomore starter put him under a lot of pressure. "We've been pleased with George. He's a real competitor.
"In our scheme of things, we need a wingback for blocking and counters, and he has an excellent feel for running counters."
Now that Sorbara has his starting spot, he has set some more goals for himself.
First, "We have to win the Yale game to set the tone for next year," he says, "It's important."
As for next season, Sorbara keeps the whole squad in mind. "I hope I can remain a part of the team," he says. "I think I can get the ball more next year and the year after that, but I just enjoy playing."
With both Sorbara and Santiago returning next year, Glueck says he isn't sure what will happen. "It's nice to know you have two starters returning," he says. "I'd hate to move [Sorbara] out of wingback with all the experience he has."
People in the know have high expectations.
"Sorbara's gonna be a star," says senior offensive tackle Roger Caron.
"He has to get stronger physically," says Glueck, "but he's potentially as good a wingback as we've ever had."