By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half
Larry Prout, Jr., who wears Pinckney football jersey number 6, stands 4-foot-8 and 85 pounds.
Or slightly less than one pound for each of the 105 surgeries he’s had in his young life.
He can’t play football — his body is much too fragile, despite a strong desire to play the game — but he makes his mark with the Pirates as an inspiration.
And the Pirates put a spark into a young man who has spent a large portion of his life in hospitals.
“Everyone gets pumped when he’s around,” Pirates senior quarterback Joe Bona says. “How could you not? Larry’s a great kid, an awesome, awesome character, and what he’s gone through should push us, because it’s way harder than what we’ve ever done. I think it pushes and makes us work harder.”
Larry is the sixth of six children of Kathy and Larry Prout Sr., who have made countless trips to emergency rooms when a medical emergency has cropped up in young Larry’s life.
At one point, their living room was a hospital room for Larry, complete with bed and medical equipment as the Prout family rallied around him.
He was born with no skin covering the lower half of his torso, leaving his internal organs exposed.
He spent most of the first 18 months of his life in the hospital, and didn’t breathe on his own until he was 3 years old.
“His first word was ‘lucky,’” Kathy Prout said in a 2016 interview. “It was the craziest word. It’s like a three-legged dog named Lucky, you know? That was his first word, and we would die laughing.”
He was included as much as he could be in his siblings’ hijinks, although he spent much of his time at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. But Larry Jr. became well-known among Wolverines fans during the 2016 season for the inspiration he was providing to the U-M football team, with Bleacher Report referring to him as the “heartbeat of Michigan football” in a 2017 report.
He’s making that level of impact on his favorite high school team now as well.
"Being part of Pinckney and Michigan means a lot," Larry Jr. said. "It’s been really fun, seeing the players and coaches; it’s the same as at Michigan. I love going to the games and sitting on the sidelines before kickoff, and seeing my players and my friends, my best friends, and seeing Coach Jim (Harbaugh) and Coach Rod (Beaton).
Larry is home-schooled because his body isn’t strong enough to allow him to attend school on a regular basis. He takes electives at Pinckney, including photography, and loves being at school, although his parents had to set some limits.
“We found out that every time we dropped him off at school, he would go out and find Rod (Beaton, Pinckney’s football coach),” Kathy said.
“We told him, once a week,” Larry Sr. said. “Rod’s got work to do.”
That may be, but Beaton returns Larry Jr.’s admiration.
“It goes without saying that he’s truly an inspiration,” Beaton says. “I’ve never met a young person with a more positive attitude than Larry. He really does bring it every single day, every time he’s here.”
Larry also has carried the flag during Pinckney's "No Quarter," the pause between the third and fourth quarters where a student picks up a black or red flag, depending on how the Pirates are faring, and runs back and forth in front of the bleachers to rev the Pirates crowd for the fourth quarter.
He practiced at home before carrying the flag in both of Pinckney's games so far this season.
His peers return the love, too.
Last spring, Larry Jr. planned to attend Pinckney’s prom, but had to miss it due to a hospitalization.
When Larry Jr. got out of the hospital, a classmate, Alex Williams, put on her prom dress and with some fellow students put on a prom for Larry.
“We have some outstanding kids here,” Beaton said, “and it goes to speak to what we have in this community. Our kids come from such great households, with parents who raise these kids the right way. They understand what Larry’s situation is, and it uplifts us all, every time he’s out here.”
The same, the Prouts say, goes for Larry.
“I remember I loved school,” Kathy said. “I loved it when my older kids were in school. You get the pencils and the pictures and the new clothes. With Larry, I have anxiety and stress because he wants to fit in and make friends and take six classes when he can only do two or three.”
Including Larry Jr. in activities like the prom and football means a lot to all of the Prouts.
“We have a lot of gratitude, and we don’t know how to show it enough,” Kathy said, ‘We want to show our gratitude to Rod and all of the players because they’ve made Larry feel important, such a part of this Pinckney football team. It’s something we’ll never forget, something Larry will never forget.”
Larry Jr. was a part of the Michigan football team for three seasons, and among his close friends is reserve Buck West, a former Pinckney standout who often is seen at the Prout house watching game shows with Larry Jr.
“I love watching Family Feud and Steve Harvey,” Larry Jr. said. “(The Pirates) are like my brothers, just like Michigan was.”
Larry Jr. got connected to the Michigan team through an organization called Team Impact, which connects youths with life-threatening or chronic illnesses to college football teams.
Dan Kraft, the son of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, invited the Prouts to Ford Field when the Patriots played a preseason game there last month and got them passes to be on the field during pregame.
“As I was hanging out, the camera was filming me and they said Team Impact had a surprise for me,” Larry Jr. said. “And the craziest thing is, I see Tom Brady coming up and giving me a fist-bump and a high five. I shook his hand and told him I loved seeing him play. He pointed to my (Michigan) hat and told me to make sure to beat the Buckeyes this season. I told him I would make sure to do that.”
After Brady left, Larry Jr. jumped for joy, no mean feat for a young man who uses a wheelchair for anything but short walks.
“When he gets excited, he jumps,” Kathy said. “He can clear eight inches, which is pretty awesome, because they said he would never walk.”
At Pinckney practice, Larry Jr. hands out encouragement and banters with players who are, in many cases, a foot taller than him.
While he basks in the glow of being part of a team, he contributes to the Pirates something they might not have learned otherwise.
“The lesson I take is that it’s not as bad as what it’s going to be,” senior running back Sal Patierno said. “What we go through, you just think of what he’s gone through, and it makes you want to go harder. Just keep fighting. I know he’s fought harder than any of us.”
“It makes you think,” Bona said. “It makes you work harder.”
“He uplifts us all, every time he’s out here,” Beaton said.
PHOTOS: (Top) Larry Prout Jr. carries the Pinckney "No Quarter" flag in front of the crowd during the Pirates’ Week 2 game at Chelsea. (Middle) Then-senior Pirates quarterback Jack Wurzer spelled out Prout’s name on his helmet in 2017 from bones the players receive for outstanding efforts. (Below) Prout’s friends put on a prom for him after Prout, in purple shirt and tie, missed the school’s event this spring while hospitalized. (Photos courtesy of the Prout family and Tim Robinson.)
Over the last decade we’ve previewed intriguing football matchups every week from every region of the state, detailing one and highlighting four others. We usually choose from six or seven possibilities in each area that really stand out.
We could have put together a Week 5 list 10 deep in the Detroit area – any other week we may have included Rochester Adams (3-1) at West Bloomfield (3-1), Macomb Dakota (4-0) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (2-2), Grosse Pointe South (3-1) at Roseville (3-1), Dearborn Heights Robichaud (3-1) at Redford Union (3-1) or Clarkston Everest Collegiate (2-2) at Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (3-1) in that group.
Head just west, and Dexter (2-2) at Ann Arbor Huron (3-1) has potential. Go farther west and Hudsonville (4-0) at Grandville (3-1) is in the conversation. In the Thumb, Marlette (3-1) at Harbor Beach (3-1) likely will be important down the road, and Houghton Lake (3-1) at McBain (3-1) would make the Northern Lower Peninsula top five most of the time.
And those are just some of the few that also caught our attention as we dive into many more below.
Bay & Thumb
Chesaning (3-1) at Montrose (4-0) - MHSAA.tv
Chesaning’s continued improvement and Montrose’s excellent start have given the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference a fuller field of contenders, and these two are the only ones undefeated in league play. The Rams have defeated both the reigning champion (Durand) and runner-up (Ovid-Elsie) from a year ago – by eight and seven points, respectively – and also have defeated Chesaning all six times (including once in the playoffs) since the two schools began playing in this league together. Chesaning also has an impressive victory this fall, as it provided a loud statement to start the league schedule with a 27-22 win over New Lothrop in Week 2.
Belleville (4-0) at Livonia Franklin (3-1) - MHSAA.tv
Belleville has won 29 straight games and the last two Division 1 titles, and after getting past River Rouge 35-28 in its season opener has won its first three Kensington Lakes Activities Association East games this fall by a combined score of 165-7. In fact, the Tigers are a combined 36-1 against KLAA East teams since joining the league in 2018. But this weekend’s matchup starts an intriguing month as Belleville pursues big goals again. Franklin has won two straight Division 2 District titles and had the most success among league teams against the Tigers last season, although that still ended with a 42-14 Belleville win.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Flat Rock (4-0) at Riverview (3-1), White Lake Lakeland (3-1) at Walled Lake Western (4-0) - MHSAA.tv, Detroit Catholic Central (3-1) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (2-2) - MHSAA.tv. SATURDAY Detroit Edison (4-0) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (4-0).
Lansing Everett (3-1) at Grand Ledge (4-0) - MHSAA.tv
The Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title race could fall a number of ways, but at this moment these two and East Lansing are undefeated in league play with Grand Ledge also the reigning co-champion and with a win already over last year’s other title winner, Holt. Everett bounced back from an opening 23-20 loss to still-undefeated Sexton and has generated some buzz – the Vikings were just 2-6 a year ago, but their defense especially has impressed this fall giving up a combined 37 points over four games. Grand Ledge won last year’s meeting 34-6 – but also just got past Lansing Waverly last week by a point, after Everett had downed the Warriors by 20 in Week 3.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lake City (3-1) at Beal City (4-0) - MHSAA.tv, Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-0) at Hastings (2-2), Haslett (3-1) at Mason (4-0), Lansing Catholic (2-2) at Portland (4-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Whitehall (4-0) at Manistee (4-0) - MHSAA.tv
This might be Manistee’s biggest game since it finished its perfect regular season in 2018, as the Mariners welcome Whitehall in what eventually may determine the West Michigan Conference Lakes champion. Whitehall won last year’s meeting 55-0 – but Manistee already has avenged a 46-19 loss to Muskegon Oakridge and improved on last season’s results over Mason County Central and Muskegon Orchard View as well. A strong defense (35 points allowed over four games) will get its best challenge yet as Whitehall has scored 34 or more in all four of its games.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gaylord (4-0) at Cadillac (3-1), Charlevoix (3-1) at Benzie Central (2-2) - MHSAA.tv, Traverse City St. Francis (2-2) at Kingsley (3-1) - MHSAA.tv, East Jordan (3-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-1) - MHSAA.tv.
Southeast & Border
Adrian (4-0) at Chelsea (3-1) - MHSAA.tv
Chelsea saw its three-year Southeastern Conference White title streak end at three last fall, but the Bulldogs are shaping up as favorites again – especially after they followed an opening loss to Grand Rapids Northview by nearly doubling up Edwardsburg the next week. The Bulldogs won a 10-game winning streak against Adrian, including 31-7 a year ago. But this Maples team is resembling more those that made the playoffs all but one season during the first decade of the 2000s, with the 4-0 start their best since 2010. They handed reigning league champion Tecumseh a 29-7 defeat last week.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Blissfield (3-1) at Clinton (3-1), Napoleon (4-0) at Grass Lake (4-0), Dearborn Divine Child (3-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (4-0) - MHSAA.tv, Monroe (3-1) at Saline (4-0) - MHSAA.tv.
Portage Central (3-1) at St. Joseph (3-1) - MHSAA.tv
St. Joseph has bounced back well from an opening-week loss to Niles and can put that first game further out of mind over the next three weeks as the Bears face Central, then Portage Northern and Stevensville Lakeshore – the other three teams that have started 2-0 in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference. St. Joseph has won five of its last six against Central, but only 13-12 a year ago. The Mustangs are rebounding from last season’s 4-5 finish, with a nice win over East Lansing to start and their only loss the closest game Division 3 top-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central has played this season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Benton Harbor (2-2) at Dowagiac (3-1), Parchment (3-1) at Kalamazoo United (2-2), Centreville (2-2) at White Pigeon (4-0) - MHSAA.tv, Niles (3-1) at Sturgis (2-2) - MHSAA.tv.
Menominee (4-0) at Houghton (2-2) - MHSAA.tv
The Maroons have started well with their move to the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper, outscoring their first three league opponents by a combined 154-6 after opening the season with another shutout of century-old rival Marinette, Wis. But things get only more challenging from here. Houghton has won two straight as it looks to build off last season’s best finish in a decade. Menominee then will face Gladstone, Negaunee and Kingsford over the final three weeks of the league schedule. Those three have been dealing each other losses over the last three weeks but remain in the title hunt.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Calumet (1-3) at Kingsford (3-1) - MHSAA.tv, Sault Ste. Marie (3-1) at Marquette (1-2) - MHSAA.tv, Negaunee (3-1) at Hancock (1-3), Ishpeming (1-3) at Bark River-Harris (2-0).
Byron Center (4-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-0)
Anticipation of this rematch goes back to last season as their Ottawa-Kent Conference White opener ended up deciding the championship in FHC’s favor thanks to its 21-13 win. Byron Center didn’t lose again over the final six weeks of league play, and the Rangers went on to finish Division 2 runners-up at Ford Field. Forest Hills Central is Division 3 this season and, as noted above, top-ranked. Both can boast large average margins of victory and impressive wins over Division 4 No. 3 Grand Rapids Christian. The main difference perhaps is that East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Northview and Lowell also are looking like O-K White contenders – and the winner of this matchup surely will have an important edge when considering the full league picture.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY East Grand Rapids (4-0) at Grand Rapids Northview (3-1) - MHSAA.tv, Spring Lake (4-0) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (4-0), North Muskegon (4-0) at Hart (4-0) - MHSAA.tv, Zeeland West (4-0) at Zeeland East (4-0) - MHSAA.tv.
Gaylord St. Mary (3-1) at Onaway (3-1)
Onaway followed a 2-7 finish in 2021 with a 1-8 run a year ago and a forfeit of this fall’s season opener after a late-breaking coaching change. But the Cardinals' immediate resurgence has been awe-inspiring. With boys basketball coach Eddy Szymoniak also taking over this program, Onaway has outscored its last three opponents by a combined 132-38. Gaylord St. Mary has bounced back nicely as well from an opening loss to Pickford, shutting out its first two Ski Valley Conference opponents (and receiving a forfeit from a third). The Snowbirds join Indian River Inland Lakes – which received that Week 1 forfeit from Onaway – as the teams undefeated in league play.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Climax-Scotts (4-0) at Bellevue (3-1), Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-2) at Powers North Central (4-0) - MHSAA.tv, Marion (3-0) at Rudyard (3-1), St. Ignace (4-0) at Rogers City (2-2).
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PHOTO Bark River-Harris's Dominick Lantagne (13) finds a big hole and gains several yards during his team’s opening day win over Ishpeming Westwood. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)