Simple Act Sets Example Nationwide

October 29, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

In many respects, Dansville junior Clay Soule is your average high schooler from a small town.

He plays sports all year long, and when he’s not playing basketball in the winter he’s definitely snowmobiling. He’s not sure at first when asked his favorite class, but zoo-bot – zoology and botany – was pretty interesting last year. Like a lot of high school football players, sometimes he loses focus and his coaches have to reel him in. Soule also isn’t a fan of chopping and unloading firewood, which is pretty typical too. 

And when his minute of fame came on a national television show generations know by name, Soule missed it. At 7 a.m. Sundays, he’s sleeping. 

“I’m just a normal kid, I guess, in Dansville,” Soule said Wednesday during a break from gym class.

Two weeks ago, at a break in play during his football game against Laingsburg, Soule shuffled across the line of scrimmage and tied the shoe of the Wolfpack’s Kevin Koenig, who was wearing gloves and having a hard time getting them off. 

Soule didn’t think it was a big deal.

He can’t believe how big a deal it’s become.

The video clip of Soule literally lending two hands has been viewed in its original YouTube post nearly 200,000 times, and after being picked up by multiple national media entities reportedly has been watched nearly 1 million times. 

Arguably the topper? Soule’s assist made ABC’s Good Morning America on Sunday.

“I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal, to be honest. I just tied a kid’s shoe,” Soule said. “I really didn’t think it would be going anywhere. I just thought, ‘Oh well, I tied a kid’s shoe.’ 

“I guess it’s a big deal because you don’t really see that, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal as it is right now. It should be something people should do, but a lot of people don’t do it. I guess it’s sportsmanship, helping another team out. (For me), it’s just a normal thing.”

More than a moment

The Aggies were leading 14-0 during the second quarter of an eventual 35-20 win over Laingsburg on Oct. 16. The Wolfpack were driving when Koenig, the quarterback, dropped down to tie his shoe. 

Koenig is towering for a small-school football player, at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and a two-time MHSAA Division 4 wrestling champion. But there’s Soule, playing the defensive side of his atypical quarterback/defensive end combo, trotting over and kneeling down as he asked if Koenig wanted some help.

A couple Aggies know Koenig from wrestling, but Soule doesn’t wrestle. The only conversation Soule recalls was when he asked Koenig if he wanted a double-knot, and was told no. Aside from what might have been a puzzled look on Koenig’s part, that was that. Soule shuffled back across the line and could hear a blend of laughter and clapping from the crowd as play resumed.

But his simple act is being hailed as much more.

The shoe-tie started gaining attention the last week, when it was submitted to the Lansing State Journal for its Video of the Week contest. The State Journal is owned by the same company as USA Today, which picked up the video. Then Huffington Post did the same. Then 530 Project Productions, which films Dansville’s games and posted the original clip to YouTube (watch it below) was contacted by CBS Sports and Good Morning America. Their coverage led to an appearance on Fox Sports' national network. 

As of Tuesday, the video had been viewed in all 50 states and 173 counties, according to the 530 producers.

USA Today called Soule “a nice guy doing a nice thing for someone else.” From Huffington Post: “In an age where athlete celebrations and taunting are amusingly received as viral sensations, the reaction after the play almost supersedes the play itself.” 

“I’m not trying to make it a big deal. I’m just trying to let it go, let it run its own course,” Soule said.

But … 

“It’s pretty cool.” 

Above average

To be honest, Soule really isn’t an average high schooler.

He carries a 3.8 grade-point average, and a discussion from that zoo-bot class about the science of raising crops has him thinking already about studying in college something related to agriculture with the idea of becoming a farmer like his grandfather was when Soule was a kid. 

He plays three sports, and stands out. He joined the varsity for both baseball and basketball as a sophomore, and he quarterbacks an 8-1 football team that takes on Carson City-Crystal in a Division 7 District opener this weekend and can tie the program record for single-season wins with one more victory.

Football coach Mike Galbreath called Soule “an all-around good kid. The young man is a great leader, and he has led our team tremendously this season.”

“He’s clearly someone with excellent character,” athletic director Julie Odom added.

And humility. His school has 300 students, and Soule knows them all by name. Yes, he slept through the Good Morning America segment, so he caught up by watching later that day on Facebook. He read some of the comments that went with the story, but not all of them – he’s just not into social media that much, and not into being the center of attention.

His brother Garrett is an infielder at Saginaw Valley State University, and they talked about the shoe-tie a little. Mostly, Clay and his parents joke about it, in disbelief of how the video has taken off. “(My parents) expect it out of me. That’s the way me and my brother were raised – to help out people,” Soule said.

Classmates joked with him Monday, asking for help tying their shoes. A student from Concord – this week’s playoff opponent – direct messaged him on Twitter, asking if Soule was that guy from the video. Soule said, “Yeah, that was me,” and that was it. 

The whole thing is a little ironic; in preschool, Soule was afraid to tie the shoelaces on a practice shoe in front of his class. Clearly, he’s mastered the skill – and then, unintentionally, used it to set an example of sportsmanship for athletes all over the country.

“People should expect it out of other people. Maybe it happens but it never gets videotaped and made a big deal,” Soule said. “(But maybe) tying a shoe goes above and beyond what most people would do. 

“People would just wait for him to tie his shoe. But I just went over there and tied it for him. I didn’t really think twice about it. I just went over there and did it.”

Geoff Kimmerly joined the MHSAA as its Media & Content Coordinator in Sept. 2011 after 12 years as Prep Sports Editor of the Lansing State Journal. He has served as Editor of Second Half since its creation in Jan. 2012. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare and Montcalm counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Dansville's Clay Soule kneels to tie Kevin Koenig's shoelace during a break against Laingsburg two weeks ago. (Middle) Dansville celebrates another victory from one of the best seasons in program history. (Photos courtesy of Dansville High School.)

All-Woman Football Officiating Crew Makes History, Inspires More to be Made

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

September 26, 2023

Caryn Jackson said it “started to hit her” at about noon, some seven hours before kickoff.

An official for football games at both the high school level in Michigan and the college level for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Jackson started to fully realize what a special event she was about to participate in.

Jackson was assigned to be the head line judge for the Waterford Kettering at Detroit Lincoln-King varsity game last Thursday at Detroit Mercy, but this was a different assignment than any other.

In addition to Jackson, there were four more women to form what’s believed to be the first all-female officiating crew for a varsity football game in state history.

With that in mind, Jackson posted what was about to happen on her X (Twitter) feed hours before the game.

“It had 23,000 engagements in an hour,” Jackson said.

And all this happened without any retweets from her daughter Rikea Jackson, the 2019 Miss Basketball Award winner at Detroit Edison who plays for Tennessee and has over 10,000 followers.

The football game arrived, and right away spectators sensed they were watching history unfold.

The crew of Jackson, referee Nicole Randolph, line judge Delonda Little, umpire RanDee Henry and back judge Kamaria Douglas made history and inspired others during a night that should be impactful for a long time.

And this also wasn’t the first time they’ve led in the officiating world.

Randolph is a Big Ten football official. As noted above, Jackson officiates Division II college football. Douglass, Little and Henry all are college basketball officials as well, and Little in March became the first woman to officiate an MHSAA Boys Basketball Final since 1995 when she refereed the Division 3 championship game at Breslin Center.

Here are thoughts from all five about their unforgettable evening on the football field:

Kamaria Douglas: “It was very well-received, which was an even better feeling,” she said. “There were a lot of people, whether we were in the parking lot afterward or just chit-chatting, who wanted to take pictures. People gave us kudos and flowers and said we did a nice job. It’s one thing to get an opportunity, but also to go out there and do a good job. They want to see more of it. Waterford Kettering’s coach said he was the father of three girls, so it just warmed his heart. He came over and got a picture with us, which was really cool.”

RanDee Henry: “This game, although historic, was even more amazing because I got to do it with friends,” she said. “All of these women have strong friendships on and off the field, making this moment even more amazing and monumental.”

Caryn Jackson: “For my children, I always tell them to leave your mark wherever you go and whatever you do,” she said. “Be a part of history. Who knew I would be refereeing high school, let alone doing it with all women? It feels good when I walk the football field and people are cheering just because they see a woman. People say ‘I’m glad you’re here, ref.’ I’ve had young boys walk up to me and shake my hand and say thank you for making history, and that you’re the first female official I have had. That stuff makes me feel good. To do it alongside four other women, that was amazing.”

Delonda Little: “Women are breaking barriers, and it’s nice to be acknowledged and to have some gender equality out there,” she said. “We all felt good to get the support during the game from the coaches and the fans. Both coaches told us we did a great job. Coaches wanted to take pictures with us to be a part of the historical moment. Fans as we were leaving told us we did a good job.”

Little continued: “Women, we still have a long way to go. But it’s good we are getting the acknowledgment we deserve. There should be gender equality.” 

Nicole Randolph: “The players kind of got the adrenaline going,” she said. “I was already a little nervous going into the day because it was really happening. When I got to the field, I was calm, cool and collected. When we all walked onto the field, the players were excited, and the coaches were excited. They asked for pictures and said they wanted to take pictures at the end of the game because they had never seen this many female officials at a game.”

Randolph continued: “We went in and said ‘Hey girls, this a great opportunity. Let’s make the best of it so we can continue to open the doors for other young ladies to continue to aspire (in) our footsteps.’”

PHOTO Thursday's crew at Detroit Mercy, from left: head line judge Caryn Jackson, umpire RanDee Henry, referee Nicole Randolph, line judge Delonda Little and back judge Kamaria Douglas. (Courtesy photo.)