It would be easy to single out Tim Tebow for his community service. Who doesn't know about his missionary work? And Tebow is a guy who asked Broncos fans to donate to (his) charity instead of putting up billboards supporting him. But as with anything involving Tebow, the extraordinary attention he received tended to blot out others during his time in Gainesville, including fellow football player Joey Sorrentino.
The Gators won two titles during Sorrentino's time with them from 2006 to 2009 as a walk-on who played primarily on special teams. Sorrentino's greatest moment on the field was a sack in 2009. But he was never going to make his biggest impact in pads; instead, Sorrentino's good work will come almost entirely off the field.
Sorrentino grew up in Ocala, and he's got strong ties both to his family and the North Central Florida community. His younger brother had liver cancer growing up; the memory of his suffering inspired Sorrentino to take the gift card given to all Florida players for their appearance in the 2008 Capital One Bowl and use it to buy a Nintendo Wii and a DVD player for a children's hospital. And shadowing one of his dentist father's patients during his senior year gave Sorrentino the motivation to go to dental school.
The number of people who couldn’t afford necessary treatment touched him. Someday, he hopes to open clinics back home in Ocala with his brother Dante, a Florida International University medical student.
"The community there has given so much to me and dentistry is one way to allow me to give back," Sorrentino said.
Sorrentino's the kind of person for whom the term "student-athlete" is a badge of honor, and he was valuable to the Gators as a glue guy and a practice player. He pushed teammates in practice and provided a stellar example of how hard even a relatively untalented player could work. It's easy for players to look at a talented teammate like Tebow busting his tail and think "Well, that's just Tebow, he's driven"; seeing a relative shrimp like Sorrentino benching twice his weight despite neither having a scholarship nor a whiff of a chance of, say, scoring, is a reminder that hard work is integral to teamwork.
Sorrentino would probably be the first to say he got more out of his time in orange and blue than the substantial part he put in. He clearly understands that he's been privileged to do what he's done in life, and that it's his privilege to be able to give back long after his football days are over. I think he'll do that for years and years to come.
Joey Sorrentino didn't make many highlight reels while he was a Gator. But his career and life may well serve as testament that you don't need to be a star to do stellar things.
To see the rest of the Buick Human Highlight Reel, go to www.NCAA.com/buick.