NC State

Dorn family torn over NC State, UNC rivalry

N.C. State's Torin Dorn (2) is pumped during the first half of the Wolfpack's game against Virginia Tech at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, January 4, 2017.
N.C. State's Torin Dorn (2) is pumped during the first half of the Wolfpack's game against Virginia Tech at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, January 4, 2017. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Torin Dorn Sr. is a North Carolina fan.

He went to UNC and played football there almost 30 years ago. His son, Myles, just finished his freshman season on UNC’s football team. His wife, Rhonda, is a UNC graduate.

By all accounts, the Dorns, from Charlotte, are a Carolina family.

But, if the weather cooperates, the Dorns will be at the Smith Center on Saturday night (8 p.m., ESPN) and they, even Myles, will cheer for N.C. State.

Wait, what?

Family comes first and the Dorn family tree, however deep its blue roots, has sprouted a red branch in Raleigh. Sophomore guard Torin Dorn, who averages 13.7 points, will start for the Wolfpack (12-3, 1-1 ACC) against his family’s school and the one he pulled for growing up.

It will be a little surreal for all parties involved.

“My whole life that was my dream school,” Dorn said of UNC.

Dorn, despite the occasional good-natured ribbing from N.C. State teammate Chris Corchiani, is “all Wolfpack now,” he said.

Still, there will be conflicting emotions for his younger brother, Myles, who made his first college start at safety in UNC’s Sun Bowl loss to Stanford. Technically, it will be the first time Myles has ever wanted to see UNC lose.

“I hadn’t thought about it that way but that’s right,” Myles said. “I still won’t say I want State to win but I always want my brother to win so I understand what that means.”

Best friends

This family story almost had a slightly different twist. Both Dorn brothers nearly ended up to N.C. State. Torin, a 6-5 guard, transferred to N.C. State after his freshman season at UNC Charlotte in 2015. He sat out last college basketball season, under NCAA transfer rules, and was the unofficial lead recruiter of Myles, a four-star football prospect out of Charlotte Vance.

Up until the final week of the 2015 college football regular season, Torin thought he was going to be able to convince Myles to join him in Raleigh.

That would not have surprised their dad.

“They’re really close,” Torin Sr. said. “They’re best friends.”

On Nov. 28, 2015, Myles took his official visit to N.C. State when the Wolfpack and Tar Heels met in the regular-season finale at Carter-Finley Stadium.

“I thought I had him,” Torin said. “Then the game started.”

And UNC jumped out to a 35-7 lead in the first quarter.

“There wasn’t much he could say,” Myles said.

“He looked at me and I knew, ‘Oh, man, it’s over,’ ” Torin said.

Myles enrolled early in Chapel Hill in January and got a head start on this football season. He played in all 13 games and had 32 tackles and a forced fumble.

When N.C. State went to Chapel Hill at the end of the 2016 regular season, it was Torin’s turn to sit in the stands and root for his brother — and the Tar Heels.

The Wolfpack won, 28-21, this time around which has been the source of some harassment for Torin from his Wolfpack teammates. Corchiani, whose father played basketball for N.C. State and has been an N.C. State fan from birth, likes to needle Torin about his Tar Heel roots.

“Now that’s a real house divided,” Corchiani said. “It’s all out of fun but I’ll remind him every now and then and give him a hard time.”

N.C. State fans will get on Myles, too, when he comes to PNC Arena with his mom and dad to watch Torin play.

“There’s a lot of jokes, especially since they beat us (in football),” Myles said.

Not all about winning

Torin Sr. grew up in Southfield, Mich., a Detroit suburb, and he didn’t really understand the fuss about the State-Carolina rivalry until he got to Chapel Hill in 1986.

“I was big into Michigan-Ohio State,” Torin Sr. said, “but I was really new to all of the rivalries in the Triangle.”

The elder Dorn started his college football career at running back but switched to cornerback before his senior season.

“I couldn’t stay healthy at running back,” Torin Sr. said. “That actually helped me. It prolonged my career.”

The Raiders, then based in Los Angeles, took Dorn in the fourth round of the 1990 draft. He spent five seasons with the Raiders and two more with St. Louis Rams.

He has some great stories from the NFL, about Bo Jackson, Howie Long and Ronnie Lott, but it was his last two difficult years at UNC that really taught him about life.

UNC finished 1-10 in each of Dorn’s last two years in 1988 and ’89. Mack Brown went on to win to turn the program around but the start was bumpy.

“It was really tough,” Torin Sr. said. “Losing builds character and there was a lot of character-building those last two years.”

But the elder Dorn was better for the experience.

“You appreciate the game itself and the camaraderie,” Torin Sr. said. “And it helped me teach (my sons) that it’s not all about winning.”

Intense games

Not that competition was scarce in the Dorn household. Torin is two years older than Myles. So when Torin was in eighth grade, his dad came up with a rule for when the boys would play “make-it, take-it” games to 11 in the driveway.

Any shot from Torin with his right hand didn’t count.

“Man, I cried,” Torin said. “I couldn’t win lefthanded.”

And Myles was allowed to get away with a foul or two.

“Those games were intense,” Myles said. “We were trying to win any way possible.”

Torin eventually became proficient with his left hand and started winning more games against his little brother.

“I thought my dad was just trying to find a way to get me a win but he had a plan,” Myles said.

It took Torin some time figure out what his dad was doing.

“He was trying to make me better,” Torin said. “I didn’t see it that way at the time, but it worked.”

After a broken foot derailed Torin’s sophomore year in high school, and set him back in the recruiting cycle, his game developed to the point where he averaged 21.6 as a senior for Vance. He played the point and Myles, then a sophomore, was the shooting guard.

“Our last (high school) game, I had 33, Myles had 17 and our team had 52,” Torin said. “You do the math.”

Charlotte, Appalachian State and UNC-Wilmington wanted Dorn out of high school but ACC recruiters weren’t able to project Dorn’s ceiling.

Dorn liked 49ers coach Alan Major and decided to stay close to home. He led the 49ers in scoring (12.0 points per game) and was the Conference USA freshman of the year.

After some health issues, Major left Charlotte. With the program in upheaval, Dorn left, too. This time, power conference programs came calling. N.C. State, Miami, Florida all wanted Dorn. There was one exception, UNC, Dorn’s dream school, still didn’t call.

“I didn’t feel dissed (by Carolina) but I have had a chip on my shoulder all the time,” Dorn said. “I just feel like all the schools that passed on me, and didn’t see my potential the player that I could become, that just gives me the fire to prove everybody wrong.”

And, as his mom said, N.C. State might have been the right school all along.

“I’ve been an underdog my whole life,” Torin said. “And with State, people look at them as the underdog compared to Duke and Carolina, so my mom said that was the perfect fit.”

Torin hasn’t said it but Myles figures his brother will have a little extra juice for UNC on Saturday night.

“Knowing him it’s personal on the inside,” Myles said. “It’s almost like, ‘They didn’t think I was good enough.’ I bet you’ll see some extra energy and passion.”

And there might even be some of that extra passion in the stands from Dorn’s family. Torin Sr. even likes to wear red. He doesn’t really think it’s a big deal. Besides, in his mind, his oldest’ son’s college choice could have been a lot worse.

“If it was Duke, it would be another story,” Torin Sr. said.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

N.C. State at UNC

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Smith Center, Chapel Hill

TV: ESPN

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