Finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize

Winner of the Independent Publisher Gold Medal for LGBT+ Fiction

One of NPR’s Favorite Books of 2020

The Redshirt challenges tenacious stereotypes, shedding new light on the hypermasculine world of American football. Over the course of their first year playing for a Division One college football program that is willing to win at all costs, roommates Miles Furling and Reshawn McCoy are forced to choose between their true selves and the selves that have been imposed on them by the game. (New Poetry & Prose Series, University Press of Kentucky, 2020)

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“An incisive, sweeping portrait…. Sobel’s fervent, literary treatment of sexuality and masculinity perfectly captures the messy world of college sports.”

Publishers Weekly

“[A] stunning debut novel…. Sobel, who played football for Duke University, looks at the toxic masculinity that has defined the sport since its inception, with a gimlet eye and a rare sensitivity. The Redshirt is an understated yet seething novel about what it means to be a man and is one of the best football novels to come along in recent years.”


“Corey Sobel’s magnificent debut novel… exposes the hypermasculinity of collegiate football as a freshman starts at a Division One school….. Literary and beautiful lines transport readers to the boys’ Southern college, where the football team is no good and no one cares. The Redshirt is a gorgeous novel in which two young men learn who they truly are, with and without the drama of college football.”

Foreword Reviews

“Like other great football novels—North Dallas Forty comes to mind—The Redshirt doesn’t flinch from the double-edged sword dangling over the sport’s culture…. A very strong debut novel that draws jagged, vivid links between sport and society.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Sobel, who attended Duke on a football scholarship, writes engrossingly about football’s punishing physical and psychological rituals…. The core crises that Miles and Reshawn face feel authentic, and Sobel smoothly persuades the reader to witness their many bruises. A promising debut.”


“I highly recommend this heartfelt, unusual, book to every American who has ever watched a football game, attended a college sports event, studied for a test, loved another person…. In other words, Sobel’s debut works for us all.”


“[An] eloquent, poignant novel…. [Sobel] is a gifted writer with an eye for precise detail…. The Redshirt is an absorbing portrait of the culture of college athletics.”

—New York Journal of Books

“Beyond illuminating the allure of college football, The Redshirt is a powerful exploration of the emotional relationships between men, and the ways that race, class and sexuality shape those dynamics.”

—The Sentinel (Colorado)

“We’re in a Sports Desert. This Football Novel Is a Tall Glass of Water” (Esquire)

All of It with Alison Stewart: Interview (WNYC)

“The Running Back Who Reads Emily Dickinson” (Defector)

“Athletes Die Twice” (LitHub)

The Best Books of 2020 You Might Have Missed (LitHub)

Best Books of the Year 2020 (10 Things to Tell You)

“You just keep making football your love. And love—love can come after.” (The Other Stories)

Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books of October 2020 (Lambda Literary)

Five Upcoming Books You Should Read Immediately (Willamette Week)

6 Debut Books You Should Read in October (Debutiful)

20 Books We Are Excited to Read in October (Write or Die Tribe)

Reading With: Corey Sobel (Shelf Awareness)

The Page 69 Test (with Marshal Zeringue)

Advance Praise

“I absolutely love The Redshirt. This is a surefooted, wise, sardonic, and brutally honest novel about race, football, and the American university—it reminds me of Ben Fountain, Colson Whitehead—yes, even David Foster Wallace would look down with approval. Corey Sobel is a writer worth watching and reading right now.”

—Jess Row, author of Your Face in Mine and White Flights

The Redshirt is a timely and anthropologically rich examination of masculinity, sexuality, and football. First and foremost, though, it’s a skillfully narrated and completely engrossing novel. This is a terrific debut from Corey Sobel. “

—Chris Bachelder, National Book Award finalist for The Throwback Special

The Redshirt is not just a novel of great beauty. It is also a reckoning and an incantation. It’s not possible to close such a novel and leave unchanged.”

—Rion Amilcar Scott, author of The World Doesn’t Require You and the PEN/Bingham Prize-winning Insurrections

“An impressive and beguiling first novel. A rare and honest look at life and sports at an elite college, the book is also a powerful, nuanced, and surprising examination of how tangled personal relationships become when they clash with institutional imperatives.”

—Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others 

“Corey Sobel goes so deep into his characters, particularly Miles, that you can not only understand their observations and anxieties, but you can feel them. You can become these characters. Not many books can pull that off, but The Redshirt does it, yard by yard.”

—Drew Magary, author of Point BThe Hike, and The Postmortal

“Every now and then, a book comes along that changes our understanding of what we once considered known and true. The Redshirt does that for football, the literary sports novel, and modern American masculinity, all at once. Undersized, closeted Miles Furling and prodigy Reshawn McCoy want from life more than they can comprehend, but it’s only together, on the college gridiron and away from it, do they begin to understand what those pursuits fully entail. Corey Sobel the ex-footballer has written a violent and tender elegy to the sport and life that shaped him, but it’s Corey Sobel the artist you should heed. He’s a keen, creative force, and The Redshirt promises to be one of 2020’s finest debuts.”

—Matt Gallagher, author of Empire City and Youngblood

“A brave and gorgeous debut, The Redshirt is a gut-wrenching literary exploration of the violence and social pressures enforcing masculine identity. Sobel has created a poetic page-turner, a complex yet incisive story about the pain of repressed desire—that of the body and of the mind—and the ways literature can offer a means of resistance and a new identity.”

—Deni Ellis Béchard, author of A Song from Faraway and winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

“It’s all too easy to watch a college football game without considering the humans underneath the helmets. Corey Sobel pierces that blissful ignorance, turning gridiron stars into three-dimensional characters whose obsessions and anxieties become the reader’s own. The Redshirt offers a crystal-clear window into how college sports actually work, and in equal measure, an enthralling page-turner by a master of dialogue who will have you cheering for his characters on and off the field.”

—Megan Greenwell, editor of and former editor-in-chief of Deadspin and senior editor at ESPN The Magazine

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