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Why Colby Sorsdal didn’t transfer from William & Mary—and why the Lions loved it

Detroit Lions 5th-round pick Colby Sorsdal had a chance to move to a Power 5 school his senior year to help his draft stock, but his decision to stay helped endear him to the Detroit Lions.

2023 NFL Draft - Rounds 2-3 Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

If there’s anything we continue to be reminded about the Detroit Lions’ strategy when it comes to acquiring players, it’s that character is not negotiable. For the third year in a row, the Lions used their draft resources on former captains, stand-up citizens, and players who eat, sleep, and dream football.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports has a really nice profile on Lions fifth-round pick Colby Sorsdal, and it highlights exactly the kind of thing the Lions are looking for when it comes to personality.

The entire article focuses on Sorsdal’s 2022 offseason decision. He was about to graduate from William & Mary with a kinesiology degree, but he had one more year of eligibility to play football. After starting 33 games in the previous four seasons and developing into the team’s best offensive lineman, Sorsdal could have entered the transfer portal—and no one would have blamed him.

“Linemen with his size and his talent are always coveted transfers and there was enough buzz around him that he knew famous Power 5 conference schools wanted him,” Wetzel wrote. “The allure of big stadiums, national television and top-line competition to showcase himself to the NFL was there.”

Despite a chance to increase his draft stock, catch the eye of more scouts, and potentially showcase his potential talents against better competition, Sorsdal quickly chose to return to William & Mary for his senior season.


He wanted to see through the complete turnaround of William & Mary’s football program. When he enrolled in 2018, the team went just 4-6, averaging a measly 13.6 points per game. When it came to decision time, William & Mary was coming off just a 6-5 season, but Sorsdal saw greatness on the other side

“I wanted to help build a legacy,” he said.

After returning in 2022 and becoming a captain, Sorsdal helped the team go 11-2, average 33.5 points per game, and reach the FCS quarterfinals.

Throughout the draft process, Sorsdal said he was asked by every single NFL team why he decided to return for his senior season.

“What I told them was, ‘I wanted to finish the job,’” Sorsdal recalled. “I’ve always had the sense of loyalty that, ‘Hey, these guys gave me a chance. They gave me a scholarship. I owe it to them.’”

That response drew a lot of fans, including Lions coach Dan Campbell.

“They loved it,” Sorsdal said. “I think Coach Campbell (in particular).”

The Lions would end up taking Sorsdal in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. While it’s unclear if Sorsdal will kick inside to guard due to his shorter arms or stay at the tackle position he played his entire college career, he certainly has a chance at staying on the 53-man roster. He’ll have the opportunity to learn for at least one season behind the likes of solid NFL veterans like Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Frank Ragnow—and, of course, former NFL center turned offensive line coach Hank Fraley.

Wetzel’s article is certainly worth the entire read, which you can do right here.

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