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FOOTBALL: Carlson grad is a Spartan and Rose Bowl champ (PHOTO)

Kodi Kieler



High school football players dream of getting a chance to play in college. College players dream of playing in a bowl game.

Sometimes those dreams come true.

For Carlson graduate Kodi Kieler, the first dream came true when the big offensive lineman earned a scholarship to Michigan State University.

The second came through on Jan. 1 when he played for the Spartans in the Rose Bowl. Making the dream all the sweeter was his team’s Rose Bowl championship.

Football has not always been a part of Kieler’s life. He did not start playing until the seventh grade when he was the quarterback of the Shumate Middle School team.

In high school, Kieler played defensive end and tackle and since signing with Michigan State has played every position on the offensive line.

The star player left quite the impression on the Marauder field as a three-year starter.

Carlson Coach Kent Sikora met Kieler before his freshman year at summer workouts. Kieler told Sikora he was a skilled player and the next few years showed that.

The team went to the playoffs once during Kieler’s time as he continued to make a name for himself.

“I had a great time and a fun career at Carlson,” Kieler said. “We only made it to the playoffs my sophomore year, but we always had a very tight team chemistry.

“I also got very close to a lot of my coaches and keep in touch with all of them still.”

Several memories stick out for Kieler as special ones at Carlson and he said the team chemistry helped with that.

“We really were brothers out there and all had each other’s back win or lose,” he said. “Beating Allen Park my senior year was a great example of that. We were the underdogs and still found a way to win (on their homecoming).

Coaching Kieler was what Sikora called a great experience.

“First off, he is a great kid,” he said. “His mom has been his biggest supporter and raised him the right way.”

Kieler echoed Sikora on his mom’s support.

“My mom’s always been there,” he said. “It’s been me and her my whole life; she helped me through everything.

“Yeah, she’s gonna flip out if I get hurt, but she’s always had a big heart and she’s always been there.”

As the years progressed, so did Kieler’s talent.

As a senior he was captain and said with each game he made sure that his teammates had a “little head” and never got too cocky.”

“Kodi made great strides as a player. He was always talented, but as a senior, really embraced the work and became a leader and division one player,” Sikora said.

Kieler’s list of accomplishments is an impressive one.

As a senior, he was rated among the top-30 seniors in the state by outlets that included The Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, and ESPN. Kieler was also named to SuperPrep’s and PrepStar’s All-Midwest Teams.

Also in his senior year, Kieler was a Detroit Free Press Division 3 all-state player, was honorable mention all-state for the Associated Press and The Detroit News, and was named to The Detroit News All-Metro West team, the All-Downriver Dream team, and the All-News Herald team.

During that year, Kieler recorded 53 tackles, that included four sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and a pass break-up. He also recorded 18 pancake blocks and did not allow a sack against.

The summer following his senior season, Kieler was invited to play in the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association East-West All-Star game.

But even before all that happened, the star player already knew where he would be playing college football at.

Kieler was offered by Michigan State right before his senior year and accepted the same day.

“The first time I came to State was actually the MSU versus Notre Dame game, when they pulled off the fake field goal and won the game,” Kieler said. “I decided to come here after watching a summer practice. I just really liked how Coach D coaches and that he really cares about his players.

“He tries to be a mentor and a teacher, rather than trying to be your best friend and I really liked that quality in a coach.”

Sikora said Kieler had a choice of several colleges and was thrilled with his final decision.

“We were all just very excited for him,” he said. “He had some wonderful opportunities offered to him by several schools.

“In the end, he stayed in state at MSU and couldn’t be happier.

“The staff at MSU is a great group of men and mentors as well, so we were happy for him.”

Kieler was redshirted during his freshman year and he said it helped him in the long run.

“Redshirting really helped me adjust to coming to a Big Ten school,” he said. “It also gave me time to get healthy and learn the play book because now they move me all over the line and I know the playbook fairly well.”

Sikora has followed Kieler’s career every step of the way.

“Kodi had a great spring and played his way onto special teams and onto the travel team this year as a redshirt freshman,” he said. “He has set a goal to be a starter next year, and he will work hard at it.

“He comes back to school quite often when he is home and visits and we really enjoy that.”

This year was a big one for Kieler.

He got out on the field for the first time with the Spartans and was part of a team that won the Big Ten championship and earned a ticket to Pasadena to play in the infamous Rose Bowl.

A favorite college football memory was easy for Kieler to pick.

“It definitely has to be winning the Rose Bowl,” he said. “Any little kid who played football dreams to play in that game and I was fortunate enough to get to play in it and win.

“It was such a surreal and crazy feeling. I was so proud of our team on winning since no one in the beginning of the season gave us a chance.”

Fulfilling his dream was exciting, but a little scary as well.

“It was just a surreal feeling,” he said. “It’s something you always wanna grow up and go do; it’s a great opportunity.

“I was definitely scared (but) I just tried to think don’t mess up.”

Kieler said the accomplishment is a memory he wont soon forget and that there are many more lasting moments he has made with his team.

“It was definitely one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he said. “It’s definitely something we’ve gotta try to do again.”

For Sikora, it was with immense pride that he watched his former player work his way through the season and head to the Rose Bowl.

“The reason we get into coaching is to see kids work for and fulfill their dreams,” Sikora said. “Our staff and the entire Carlson community are all so happy for him.”

Sikora’s program has been fortunate to have several players in the past few years go on to the college level and succeed; Kieler being the highest level, and Sikora says its shows other local players the possibilities.

“I think it is important because it shows that it can be done,” he said. “I think, sometimes, kids see that and think ‘that’s for other kids,” he said. “But a kid from Gibraltar Carlson High School just played in the Rose Bowl.

“I think it sends a great message to our kids, and to kids in the Downriver area.”

Kieler still tries to keep up with the happenings in the Downriver League and the Carlson football team and encourages each to fulfill their dreams.

“I just tell them keep working hard, do good in school, don’t be a punk,” he said. “Stuff like that.

“Just have a good attitude when you go into everything (and) never think you’re gonna get beat.”

The Downriver area will always be special to Kieler and no matter how many Big Ten titles he wins, or how many Rose Bowls he gets to experience the next few years, he won’t be forgetting his hometown.

“I love where I come from and I’m so thankful for the opportunity that Michigan State gave me,” he said. “With not many colleges coming into our area to recruit, I’m very blessed to have had the chance to do this.

“Hopefully I can bring more to the team next year and years to come and make my hometown proud.”













Last Updated: 1/31/2014 3:53:22 PM EST

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