Archdeacon: Blind date turns into remarkable vision for Miami receiver, girlfriend

Jack Sorenson, the All Mid-American Conference receiver, and his girlfriend Paige Coffman with Paige’s dog, Sammy. CONTRIBUTED

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Jack Sorenson, the All Mid-American Conference receiver, and his girlfriend Paige Coffman with Paige’s dog, Sammy. CONTRIBUTED

What started as a blind date has turned into a remarkable vision.

That’s not saying it didn’t take a while for the young couple to get a 20/20 focus of each other and then see a purpose much bigger than themselves, one that, among other things, is about to begin helping women who have been sexually assaulted or are the victim of domestic violence.

Three years ago, Jack Sorenson and Paige Coffman were paired up when they reluctantly accompanied friends who were taking part in an annual Valentine’s Day mixer put on by the Cru campus ministry at Miami University.

“We both signed up as a wingman for our friends,” Coffman said. “My friend really wanted to go, but she was nervous to do it alone. I said, ‘OK, I’ll go but I’m not interested in dating anyone at all. I don’t want to be in a relationship. It’s too much. I just want to relax.’”

Sorenson was just as ambivalent about the whole affair.

“I didn’t know my friend had signed me up to go along with him,” he said. “I didn’t really want to go, but I didn’t want to bail on him either.”

Although Coffman eventually was sent Sorenson’s name as her upcoming date, she had no idea who he was or what he looked like. When she heard he was going to be at an Athletes in Action meeting on campus, she showed up unannounced to get a “sneak peek.”

Sorenson didn’t know her either and, he said when he first saw her walk in he told his friend: “Wouldn’t that be crazy if SHE was my date! She’s beautiful! Just beautiful!”

When he found out who she was, he came up to talk.

“I thought he was really nice, but he was visibly nervous and I thought he was going to pass out,” Coffman recalled with a laugh. “He was sweating and stuttering and I was like, ‘Are you OK? Do you need to sit down?’”

Their blind date was part of a relaxed group dinner at someone’s house and as they talked, Coffman – who still knew nothing about him – said she asked if he had any hobbies.

He told her dabbled in football with the Miami team.

“I said, ‘Oh, that’s awesome,’ but truthfully, I wasn’t a football fan and knew nothing about it. I asked him if he got to play much and he said, ‘No, not much. I’m the water boy.’

“I believed him. I had no reason to think otherwise.”

That all changed a few months later when Miami opened the 2019 football season at Iowa.

Coffman was having a watch party with her friends and said she was shocked to see Sorenson on the field at the start of the game. And the next thing she knew, he was catching passes from quarterback Brett Gabbert:

“I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh! He’s s balling out in the first game he’s ever really played in!’”

And then early in the second quarter, Sorenson caught an 11-yard touchdown pass that put Miami in the lead, 7-3.

“All my friends and I we’re going crazy,” Coffman remembered. “I was saying, ‘I can’t believe it! It’s Jack’s first time on the field and now he’s got his first touchdown!’

“Finally, one of my guy friends there hears us and says, ‘You guys are so dumb. He does this all the time. That’s Jack Sorenson!’”

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Miami wide receiver Jack Sorenson celebrates a touchdown during last week's game vs. Buffalo. Miami Athletics photo

Miami wide receiver Jack Sorenson celebrates a touchdown during last week's game vs. Buffalo. Miami Athletics photo

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Miami wide receiver Jack Sorenson celebrates a touchdown during last week's game vs. Buffalo. Miami Athletics photo

As Coffman has since learned, he’s one of the best receivers ever to wear a Miami uniform.

This past season, the 6-foot, sixth-year senior won first team All-Mid American Conference honors after catching 76 passes for 1,406 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In Miami’s 27-14 victory over North Texas in the Frisco Bowl, he was the game’s leading receiver with seven catches for 116 yards.

He ended his career with 3,070 receiving yards. Only three other receivers in Miami history – Ryne Robinson, Nick Harwell and Martin Nance – have eclipsed 3,000 receiving yards in their careers.

That’s made Sorenson a pro prospect, something he’ll showcase Tuesday when Miami holds its Pro Day on campus.

That’s also the day he and Coffman will unveil their remarkable vision.

Just as Coffman learned Sorenson was more than “just a water boy,” he has learned she is so much more than his initial qualifier of “just beautiful.”

“She just has an incredible heart,” he said. “She’s just so selfless and caring.”

Three years younger than him – she’s now 21 and he’s 24 – Coffman had come to Miami from nearby Liberty, Ind., on a Presidential Scholarship and initially studied early childhood development.

She’s smart and possesses a real work ethic. She now holds to two jobs in Oxford – working at a boutique and at a café – and when COVID hit and temporarily forced students to study online, she realized she liked that way of learning.

By then, she had decided she wanted to be a social worker and she transferred to Campbellsville University in Kentucky.

While she’s getting her degree online, she’s spent the past two years volunteering at Women Helping Women, a Cincinnati-based women’s advocacy program ( womenhelpingwomen.org ) that helps survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. It serves Butler, Hamilton, Adams and Brown counties.

Coffman is driven to help, she said, because of her own personal experience as well as those with the people she’s met there, the stories she’s heard and the empathy she has for all people who are hurting and in need.

Hopefully one day, she said, her efforts will extend to children in foster care or who are otherwise under-privileged, but her concern now is sexual abuse victims and that’s where her vison – and Jack’s – has become especially focused.

She said they knew they’ve been blessed in their lives and now realize they have the will, the budding means and, with Jack’s football, a platform to do something for others. They launched a nonprofit called The Passion Projects ( thepassionprojects.com ) dedicated to giving back to communities and connecting organizations with much needed resources.

Their first project – which will benefit Women Helping Women – is tied into Miami’s Pro Day.

While it’s an important time for Sorenson and his RedHawk teammates to showcase themselves to NFL scouts and coaches – it’s a chance to prove they are equals to the prospects from the more publicized and highly considered Power 5 schools – Tuesday’s session also is an important fundraiser for Sorenson’s and Coffman’s Passion Project.

It’s called “Bench Press for Charity’ and people can make monetary pledges for the number of 225-pound reps various Pro Day players make during their 9 a.m. session at Yager Stadium.

People can select one player, several or everyone involved and affix a monetary amount they want to pledge. Information of that can be found on the website or on the Projects’ Facebook and Instagram accounts.

The money collected will go to providing self-care kits that Women Helping Women provide the assault victims.

On Tuesday, The Passion Project also will have a clothing drive to help provide victims at hospitals who have to give up their clothes during a sexual assault examination. In some hospitals they are left with nothing but a hospital gown and slippers to wear home.

“Hopefully this will help reduce some of the ongoing trauma,” Sorenson said.

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Jack Sorenson, the All Mid-American Conference receiver, and his girlfriend Paige Coffman after a RedHawks’ victory at Ball State this past season. Sorenson led Miami with 8 catches for 138 yards that game. He finished his senior season with 76 caches for 1,406 yards and 10 touchdowns. CONTRIBUTED

Jack Sorenson, the All Mid-American Conference receiver, and his girlfriend Paige Coffman after a RedHawks’ victory at Ball State this past season. Sorenson led Miami with 8 catches for 138 yards that game. He finished his senior season with 76 caches for 1,406 yards and 10 touchdowns. CONTRIBUTED

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Jack Sorenson, the All Mid-American Conference receiver, and his girlfriend Paige Coffman after a RedHawks’ victory at Ball State this past season. Sorenson led Miami with 8 catches for 138 yards that game. He finished his senior season with 76 caches for 1,406 yards and 10 touchdowns. CONTRIBUTED

‘She’s the real star’

Sorenson grew up in Kildeer, Ill., a northwest suburb of Chicago. Coming out Adlai Stevenson High, where he’d been a star receiver as a junior and a prolific quarterback as a senior, he said he chose Miami over offers from a couple of the military academies, some Ivy League schools and most of the Mid-American Conference.

He said he believed Miami offered him the best place to be standout on the football field, get a good education and gain the connections needed to prosper after college.

After redshirting in 2016, his freshman year, he blossomed enough two years later to start five games, play in 12 and win third team All-MAC honors with 53 catches for 742 yards and two touchdowns.

With injuries and the COVID pandemic interrupting his next two seasons, he readied himself like never before during offseason to prepare for his final campaign in 2021.

He ended up having a breakout season and now hopes to catch on in the NFL, where other MAC receivers – guys like Randy Moss, Antonio Brown and Greg Jennings – made a splash.

Away from football, he’s excelled in the classroom. He already has earned two undergrad degrees – in marketing and human capital management – and he’s halfway to his MBA.

He said his best education though has been in realizing what Paige – now his girlfriend of three years – is all about:

“She’s a selfless person who really wants to give back and she’s passionate about it. One of her dreams was to start the foundation and that’s what we’ve done.

“It’s really cool that she’s allowed me to play a role in this, but she’s the real star of this show.”

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Jack Sorenson, the All Mid-American Conference receiver, and his girlfriend Paige Coffman at a Zac Brown concert at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. CONTRIBUTED

Jack Sorenson, the All Mid-American Conference receiver, and his girlfriend Paige Coffman at a Zac Brown concert at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. CONTRIBUTED

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Jack Sorenson, the All Mid-American Conference receiver, and his girlfriend Paige Coffman at a Zac Brown concert at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. CONTRIBUTED

‘I got pretty lucky’

The Passion Projects efforts at Tuesday’s Pro Day won’t just raise funds and collect clothes for women in need, but it will raise awareness, too, said Coffman.

“When this happens to women it’s such a violating trauma,” she said. “They feel like something has been taken away from them and it’s something they have to deal with the rest of their lives.

“It’s not always like in the movies where you see someone gets assaulted and it becomes the pinnacle of their life and they come out of it stronger and a better person.

“That’s not what it’s like and to always glorify it like that makes me angry. It can be a long process of recovering and that’s why we need to do what we can to help.”

Women Helping Women assists women in everything from their hospital exams to any court appearance and many other facets of the ordeal in between.

Through their Passion Projects Coffman and Sorenson also have tried to educate people on their social media accounts with a series of posts entitled “The More You Know.”

“It just gives easy information to people so they can become more aware of all this,” Sorenson said.

“It might explain anything: ‘What is a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Exam) Exam? What does a woman go through if she’s been assaulted and wants to file an incident report?’ Or, how you can become an advocate.”

Coffman said she’s not surprised that Sorenson has immersed himself in the effort:

“He’s just that one-in-a-million type of human being who is genuinely kind and genuinely listens. He’s respectful and attentive and he truly cares. People are drawn to him.”

She caught herself in her glowing assessment and laughed:

“Everybody likes him. He’s like a golden retriever.

“Really, though, he’s just a good person.”

Reminded of her initial reluctance, she didn’t hesitate:

“I’m not gonna lie, I got pretty lucky.”

Sorenson said the same about her.

And because of it – because a blind date turned into a remarkable vision – other people in real need might get some luck, as well.

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