Requiem For a Heavyweight: Wes Sornisky

Wes Sornisky says something to Wayne Hardin after a 17-17 tie at  Cincinnati.

Wes Sornisky says something to Wayne Hardin after a 17-17 tie at Cincinnati.

Every once in a while, somebody sees something that needs to be done and makes a difference.

Meet the undisputed heavyweight champion of the Temple spirit, which Wes Sornisky was and someone who I had the honor to know well for at least a few years of his all-too-short life.

wes

Wes died tragically in a fire in Delaware a few days ago and I cannot help but think much of the football tailgating scene at Temple now, a scene that went from dreadful to really good, was due to him making a difference.

During the darkest of Bobby Wallace days, Wes organized a group of ex-football players into something called the “Fourth and Goal Club” and they picked the Jetro Lot at 11th and Damien as their headquarters. It started out with a few and ended with many and eventually made the move over to Lot K, where the ex-player group thrives under all-time tackle leader Steve Conjar.

Wes finally made Sports Illustrated for this fact in the weekly college roundup.

Wes finally made Sports Illustrated for this fact in the weekly college roundup.

Wes would bring one of those food trucks you’d see at Temple and make it tailgate headquarters. Eventually, word spread and other tailgaters would join the group.

There’s something extra special about the kickers and their connection to Temple. Almost all of the ex-kickers make it regularly to the games and I’m sure Brandon McManus would, too, if he didn’t have a job kicking in the NFL.

Wes and Cap Poklemba, another kicker, separated by 30 years or so but united by a common spirit, even held a tailgate at a Temple basketball game. That idea never caught on, but that was more due to the weather than the idea itself.

Wes could have been a big part of history in the 1976 Penn State game when Temple went for a two-point conversion to win at the end instead of allowing him to tie it with an extra point. Wayne Hardin told me last year it was a mistake because a tie would have been viewed as a win for Temple. (I disagreed and told him he absolutely did the right thing.)  After that game, though, Hardin said a tie “was like kissing your sister.”

The next year, at Cincinnati, Hardin allowed Sornisky to kick a field goal to tie, 17-17. After the game, Sornisky is seen in a photo saying something to Hardin. I asked Wes what he said. “How’s kissing your sister feel?” is what Wes told me he said.

Wes knew of my affinity for the old “TEMPLE” helmet and wanted me to have his a few years ago and we decided to meet a couple of miles from his home at the Montgomeryville LA Fitness Center. Something came up and Wes had to cancel but said we would meet again somewhere along the line.

And that was the last I’ve heard from Wes, who moved to Delaware, which was like moving to Kansas. He never came to a game again, but he made a big difference in his life at a time when a difference needed to be made.

RIP, Wes.

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9 thoughts on “Requiem For a Heavyweight: Wes Sornisky

  1. This brings tears to my eyes. Wes was and is one of the few diehards that kept the OWL NATION going. Wes was a good ol’ boy and had a good soul and was a well-intentioned human being. I am sure God has not forgotten dear ol’ Wes. When Temple in fact rises to gridiron prominence, we must remember people like Wes because Wes was part of some real good Temple teams, and fervently wanted the Owls to fly high again. Temple now has another Guardian Angel to indeed enable the Owls to reach a very lofty perch. God Bless you Wes. I have never stopped respecting what you accomplished for your school and Alma Mater. I am confident that you are resting comfortably in the arms of your God. Until we meet again, Go Owls … …

  2. Nice piece Mike. I remember the first time I saw Wes as a peach fuzzed faced freshman and thought why is there a 40 year old man on the team. He was only 26, but in my mind and those of the other freshmen we couldn’t help but think that someone had made a mistake or someone was playing a joke and allowed this old man on the team. When we watched him kick though, we knew that no mistake had been made. RIP Wes.

    • amazing he was 26 when he got to temple. i think that picture above is the only picture where I saw a Temple player talk to Hardin (although I remember seeing him talking to Joachim quite a few times during the game). don’t remember a player saying anything to him. that was wes, though.

  3. Very Sad, May God bring him peace.

    Mike, your heart shows how much more you care about the team and the university than the idiots and morons on the BOT.

    • thanks, jay. good win in hoops tonight. wish matt was as productive as fran (6 postseasons, 4 league titles). fran knows what he’s doing on gameday and i will leave it at that.

  4. Thanks Jay S. for reminding us of Wes’ dog. Wes always had dogs and took good care of them. May this particular dog RIP with Wes. Maybe this was God’s way of sending Wes home with a companion at his side. God Bless them both.

    And thank you Mike for bringing this sad news to our attention.

    JB – Class of ’87

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