Lelito's Work Helps St Clair Athletes Play

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

May 31, 2017

If not for sports, Tim Lelito isn’t sure he would have finished high school.

Now that he’s entering his fifth season in the National Football League, Lelito is doing what he can to make sure kids in St. Clair County don’t have to worry about that.

The Lelito Legacy Foundation has teamed with the Community Foundation of St. Clair County to grant $9,000 for county schools to cover athletic participation fees for students in need.

“I used sports as a vehicle for where I am now – to get to college and get through high school,” the 2007 St. Clair High School graduate said. “If I didn’t have sports, I don’t think I would have graduated high school at all. School wasn’t a priority; the horses that my grandparents raised were the priority, because that was our livelihood.

“Making it to college and being the first one in my family to graduate with a degree, sports was that vehicle for me to get that degree, and that really hit home with me.”

Five St. Clair County community partners were able to raise $4,500, and Lelito’s foundation matched. The funds will be able to cover participation fees for 116 students at St. Clair County high schools and middle schools during the 2017-18 school year.

The Port Huron Schools Endowment Fund, East China School District Athletic Boosters and PTOs, the Community Foundation of St. Clair County’s Youth Advisory Council and its Marysville Community Fund, and the Capac Adolescents Preventing Abuse and Crime (CAPAC) Fund were the five partners.

“It’s exciting to see someone who is not only successful and has come back to help his hometown, but he’s so humble about it,” Community Foundation Vice President Jackie Hanton said. “When we were in our meetings, it’s not about Tim. It’s that he has this vision to help kids who are like him.”

Lelito was a mauling all-state offensive lineman at St. Clair, paving the way for the team’s option attack. He was also an all-state thrower on the Saints’ track & field team.

Playing sports required a participation fee, something Lelito’s grandparents handled, even if they struggled to do so.

“When I was younger, my grandparents raised racehorses, and money was tight for a while,” Lelito said. “My grandparents put my brother and I in sports, and we always played sports. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I was older. They were pinching pennies together and taking care of us before taking care of their needs.”

Lelito earned a scholarship to Grand Valley State University, where – after redshirting as a freshman and being forced to take a medical redshirt his second year – he started 45 straight games and was named Offensive Lineman of the Year by the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2012.

He was signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2013, and worked his way into the rotation almost immediately, seeing action in 63 games during his four years in New Orleans and starting 24 games, including 13 in 2015.

This past offseason, Lelito signed a free-agent deal with the Tennessee Titans.

Throughout his NFL career, Lelito has given back, both to his hometown and his professional town. He has conducted free football camps for St. Clair County kids for the past few years.

“He’s just a young man that I’ve continued to be impressed with how grounded he’s remained,” Bill Nesbitt, Lelito’s football coach at St. Clair, said. “He understands the big picture. His success is not just in playing at that level, but in helping others. That’s his great success.”

Funds for the participation fees will be given to the school districts in St. Clair County, and the schools will be tasked with selecting students most in need. In future years, Lelito hopes to help schools purchase equipment for kids in need, and eventually he wants his foundation to reach more than just athletes.

“My foundation isn’t just for kids in sports, it’s for underprivileged youth,” Lelito said. “I think moving forward, in the next five years, I want to be able to take care of a lot of kids in a very broad spectrum – in sports and arts and other extracurricular activities.”

That will take funding, but Lelito said he has found generous donors in St. Clair County.

“That’s why I bought a house here,” he said. “I love it here. I love the people; they’ll give you the shirt off their back. That’s why I wanted to put roots down here.”

With his efforts, Lelito is doing all he can to make it an even better place to call home. Nesbitt believes the funds could be the difference in playing sports as opposed to sitting out for some students, which he hopes will have a lasting effect.

“I think it definitely can have a positive impact that way,” Nesbitt said. “Hopefully, in a larger, greater, grander sense, these kids who are participants could one day give back themselves. If they are able to go on and have some success, maybe they could remember that somebody had helped them out and do the same.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Tim Lelito watches an athlete work out during a camp he conducts in the St. Clair area. (Middle) Lelito during his high school career at St. Clair. (Below) Lelito, middle, has worked this offseason to help pay participation fees for athletes in need of financial assistance. (Top and below photos courtesy of the Port Huron Times Herald.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 26, 2023

Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.

The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).

Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.

See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:

8-Player Football

Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.

On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.

A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.

Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.

Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.

Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.

Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).

Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.

Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.

Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.

PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)