Two former Ballenas Whalers took to Investors Group Field in Winnipeg last weekend, with only one leaving the 103rd Grey Cup with a ring.
When the final whistle blew, it was Justin Sorensen and his Edmonton Eskimos coming out with a 26-20 win over Andrew Marshall and the Ottawa Redblacks.
For the Oceanside faithful, it was a chance to see two of their former alumni battle it out on the Canadian Football League’s biggest stage; for Sorensen, it was the culmination of a dream he’s had since he was a kid.
“It feels awesome,” Sorensen said from Edmonton earlier this week. “I’ve worked my whole life towards this moment so it feels really good.”
Sorensen began his CFL career in 2009 after five years with the South Carolina Gamecocks in the NCAA. In 2009, he was drafted in the first round, fifth overall, to the B.C. Lions and got to head home.
“That first year in South Carolina I was just trying to keep my head above water,” Sorensen said. “I was just doing whatever it took to survive. Everything was bigger down there, faster and I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.”
Playing football was always a dream of his. His desire translated into success at the high school level, where he was one of the most sought after recruits in Canada heading into his senior season with the Whalers. All of this after he helped win a provincial championship in 2002.
“When I was a kid I just loved playing,” Sorensen said. “Once things happened in high school, I was like alright, let’s see where this can go. I thought maybe I could get in with a college in Canada or possibly the U.S.”
“Getting to play in the NCAA was huge and I thought, let’s see if we can take this to the next level. It’s just a build up effect, every year with the love of the game and now I’m a Grey Cup champion, it’s crazy.”
Sorensen becomes the first Ballenas alumni with his name on the Grey Cup.
“It’s cool coming from such a small town,” Sorensen said. “I always tell people I meet to just work hard and reach for the stars. You know, if you work hard enough at it, if you stay focused on your goals and dreams, anything is possible. I’m living proof of it, I’m blessed and lucky to have made it as far as I have.”
Sorensen and his team celebrated with over 5,000 who greeted them back home. “It was cool to be that close with the fans,” Sorensen said. “The feeling has sunk in, winning the Grey Cup, so it’s just amazing. It’s all an amazing experience, one that I’ll never forget.”