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.
“It’s pretty cool.”
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 Geoff@mhsaa.com 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.)