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 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 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.