The Redshirt by Corey Sobel is a football novel for non-football fans

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Corey Sobel was recruited to play football at Duke University in the mid-2000s. He hated it.

Instead he began researching HIV/AIDS in North Carolina and Kenya. He also followed his passion for poetry and literature. A decade or so later, he’s released his debut novel The Redshirt, which is about football. Sort of. There is a football team at the center of it, but it’s really about identity, socioeconomics, and the ecosystem of toxic masculinity. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a football fan to understand the book. Sobel himself doesn’t even watch football after spending his entire youth putting on pads and knocking the ball carrier to the turf.

The Redshirt, which is a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, follows two freshman – one white and one black – who don’t really fit into the idea of what a college football player should be. One wants nothing more to be good at football but isn’t while the other wants nothing more to not be a star but is.

Adam Vitcavage is joined by Corey Sobel to talk about his debut novel The Reshirt. The two talk about the ins-and-outs of college football, why football novels are passed on, and how the Redshirt came to be.

Please consider donating to an organization that helps fight tyranny in America of your choosing. I’m choosing to highlight the Okra Project, is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home-cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans People wherever we can reach them. Visit them at

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Thank you to Rocky Collin for letting me use their song “What Is It” for this podcast. Follow the band at

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