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.)

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

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.)