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Warren, Roseville

February 15, 2011

De La Salle seniors extend friendship, football careers

By Brad D. Bates
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Warren De La Salle seniors, from left, Mike Keith, Cody Knoll and Lyle VanFleteren, pictured with DLS football coach Paul Verska, signed National Letters of Intent to play college football. Keith and Knoll committed to Northwood University, and VanFleteren signed with Siena Heights University.

WARREN — For Warren De La Salle seniors Cody Knoll and Mike Keith, heading to college will not be as big of a culture shock as it is for most students.

The duo — along with Armada resident Lyle VanFleteren, who sign with Siena Heights University — inked National Letters of Intent to play football at Northwood University and extended a legacy that started when they were teammates on their sixth-grade team at St. Anne.

“It kind of just happened,” Knoll said of the duo ending up together at Northwood. “It’s nice that it did happen, so we don’t have to look for roommates.”

For Keith, who plays linebacker behind Knoll’s defensive tackle position, the chance to extend his football career with a life-long friend was a no-brainer.

“Northwood’s coach called me, and Cody had already committed, and the first thing he said was, ‘Do you want to play with Cody,’” Keith said.

“I said, ‘I’ve been playing with him since sixth-grade, so that will always be a good thing to keep playing with your best friend.’”

One reason Keith, of Roseville, was glad to be joining Knoll with the Timberwolves, who compete in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, is the way Knoll makes his job easier on the gridiron.

“He means a lot — usually getting double- and triple-teamed,” said Keith, who ended his career with the second-highest tackle total in DLS history. “It makes it easier for me to run to the ball carrier.”

Knoll’s happiness with the chance to play football at Northwood and spend a few more seasons with Keith was furthered after his senior year at De La Salle was cut short because of an injury.

“When I missed football, I believe I came closer to it,” said Knoll, a Warren resident. “I knew I loved it, but I didn’t know how much until I wasn’t playing and watching my friends play it.”

As one would expect from two friends who have spent so many years competing together on the same team, Keith and Knoll have several similarities, but they take that even further than most.

“We have a lot in common; we like the same TV shows; we laugh at the same things,” Keith said.

“And some people say we look alike,” Knoll added.

Those similarities even inspired a few nicknames from their high school coaches.

“The coaches have names that include both of us,” said Keith, mentioning “Frik and Frak,” and the “Bash Brothers.”

“I think we both like the Bash Brothers.”

And whatever their future coaches at Northwood decide to call them, there are two names that the duo has no problem with — friends and teammates.

“It’s great to be able to share it because we know each other, and I think we’ll be majoring in the same thing, too — sports management,” Knoll said.

“Playing on the next level, from grade school to high school and now college, together, means a lot,” Keith added.
 

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Brad D. Bates at bbates@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1029.