Alex Thole follows his father with GV Football commitment


Courtesy of South County News

Zack Goodrow, Sports Editor

The state of Grand Valley State University’s 2020 football season is still in hiatus, but it hasn’t stopped the team from recruiting new players for the future. One of these new players, Schoolcraft High School quarterback Alex Thole, has committed to GVSU for the 2021 season. Thole has been a dynamic QB during his high school career so far. He was a first team pick for all-state last year as he threw 38 touchdowns with 2,999 yards.  

“It was an obvious choice for me,” Thole said. “GVSU is close to my home and they have a great coaching staff with a winning culture and tradition.” 

Tholes also has strong family connections to GVSU. His father, Joe Thole, played wide receiver and safety for the Lakers during the late 1980’s and early 90’s. That helped Alex make his decision on where to play in college easy.

Alex had DI aspirations, like most high school players with his skill set. With the pandemic however, it was difficult to visit schools. His father told him that GVSU was like a DI school, with the Lakers tremendous weight room, excellent field, and a great coaching staff. He also reminded his son of the Lakers winning atmosphere. 

“One thing my dad mentioned was about GVSU’s long winning culture that they still have today,” Alex said. “That’s something that will stick around with you for life even out of college.”

While his son’s path to becoming a Laker worked out almost perfectly, Joe’s route was much different. There was little recruitment when he was coming out of high school and the way players are scouted today was nothing like the past.   

“At the time, it was a different landscape then it is now,” Joe said.  “You didn’t get recruited as much nationally or even regionally. If you were interested in a school you’d have to send stuff out to coaches. It was a smaller world without social media and cell phones. I happened to be at a camp and ran a good 40 time, which gave me my shot.”  

The game of football has changed tremendously since Joe took the field. It’s more pass-heavy and is filled with more integrated schemes and plays. With new rule changes, there’s less contact in the game. There’s a chance that a young Joe Thole, standing at 5’10” and weighing 185 pounds, wouldn’t have an opportunity to play in college now. 

“I think the complexity of the game has increased,” Joe Thole said. “What we’re running here now in high school is more complex than what we ran when I was at GVSU. Offensively, we have five receivers out wide. It’s crazy. You couldn’t even run the same coverages we did to defend it. You can’t run cover three against trips. The size and athleticism of the kids has changed too. They’re way better athletes now and the weight room has a big factor in that. Alex is a thousand miles ahead of where I was coming into college. He’s a lot smarter as football player then I ever was.” 

While the game of football may look different on the field now, the impact it has on it’s players hasn’t. Joe’s time at GVSU has stayed with him for his entire life as long with the relationships with players and lessons he’s learned from coaches. He played with some legendary Lakers, including running back Eric Lynch who played for the Detroit Lions and quarterback Jack Hull who used to lead the Lakers all-time in passing. Joe also played for Brian Kelly, the current Notre Dame head coach, and Tom Beck, who led the team in their undefeated season of 1989. 

Joe passed on his experiences and love of football along to his son. He has given him advice on how to handle college at GVSU being a student athlete. He not only sold the young quarterback on GVSU’s winning culture, but also on what it takes to be successful on the field. 

“You used to be a big fish in a little pond, but once you get to Grand Valley, you’re going to be playing with kids who were all the best players on their high school teams,” Joe said. “You have to be prepared and ready for adversity. At the end of the day, college is just harder than high school. That’s what I said to Alex.” 

Alex has taken this advice and is ready to move forward at GVSU. Until he does become a Laker, he still needs to finish his high school career. After much deliberation, Schoolcraft’s football season has commenced during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thole and his team played their first game of the year Friday, Sept. 18, beating Constantine 49-14. This season, Tholes will not only be competing for a state championship, but he will also be improving his game in preparation for his collegiate career.

“We’ve been able to get back in the swing of things here and our season is going,” Alex said.  “There’s always a big transition between high school football to college, but I’ll be ready for it. I’m trying to improve my game all around before I get to GVSU and the mental side of my game.”

Alex said he is not only looking forward to being on the football field as a Laker, but also experiencing college life. He’s already in love with the campus and thinks it’s filled with excellent people. He’s not only talked to his father about the school, but other GVSU alums who have said nothing but great things about the school. 

He may be passionate about becoming a Laker, but for now, he and his dad will focus on their last high school season together. Joe has been the wide receiver and defensive backs coach for his son’s team at Schoolcraft. He has seen his son grow as a person on and off the field, and they have shared their love of the game together. While he wouldn’t be coaching his son at GVSU, Joe will still be there in the stands and support his son as he always has. 

“It’s made our relationship stronger,” Joe Thole said. “I probably should be coaching quarterbacks here but I don’t want to coach him. I’m not the kinda guy who lives through my son and vice versa. It’s a special thing that you can share those moments on the sidelines. A lot of people don’t get that chance. Football is a family thing. It’s a huge time commitment and it’s been a great ride. I’m so pumped to finish his senior year with him and finally be able to play.”