Fenton's Setzke, Grimes Take Coach/Player Relationship to Next Level
Tigers prepare to take on Walled Lake Western in the district finals Friday in the Michigan High School Athletic Association football playoffs.
While explaining his relationship with Trent Grimes, Fenton Tigers football coach Jeff Setzke paused momentarily and said “it gets a little more bizarre than that.”
Sure, coaches have close, even family-like, ties with their players and staff members -- but in the case of Setzke and Grimes, Fenton’s 6-foot-1, 195-pound running back, the term “family” most definitely applies.
And so does the term “bizarre,” to an extent.
Setzke essentially ran down a branch of his family tree while further explaining just how close he and Grimes were.
“My mother and his grandfather graduated two years apart at Midland High,” Setzke said. “And 20 years later, I ended up in Montrose (to play football for Bob Hayes, Grimes’ grandfather), and 20 years after that, I ended up at Fenton High School, where both of Bob Hayes’ grandsons played for me (Tyler and Trent).”
Was that enough of a Setzke-Grimes twist?
Setzke’s sister graduated a year apart from Grimes’ mother, Dana Grimes. And to top it off, Setzke was good friends with Hayes’ son, Tyler and Trent’s uncle who frequently attends Tigers football games.
“It’s a small world,” Setzke said, laughing. “It’s pretty neat.”
Trent agrees. Not every player has the benefit of such woven commonalities with their football coach; it’s a relationship that stokes his desire to perform.
The All-State-caliber running back has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season for the Flint Metro League champion Tigers and has received plenty of attention from college football programs. He’s looking to continue his hot streak Friday in the district finals against Walled Lake Western.
Part of his success has been due to his physical ability. At 6-1 and 195 pounds, his 4.4-second 40-yard dash makes him incredibly difficult to tackle But football is about more than tackles and yards, it’s about learning the game and respecting opponents.
And it’s also about taking charge and owning mistakes.
“(Setzke) teaches us a lot about life, how to respect others and look up to the people who are leading the team,” Grimes said.
It may be easy for a player like Grimes to get lost in the fold -- Fenton has so much talent, there isn’t just one player that could be called the go-to guy. Players like Mitch Shegos, the Tigers’ do-all, and quarterback Connor Davidson are recognizable, yes.
So are players like defensive lineman Jacob Keesee.
And they’re all seniors.
Eventually, Grimes wants to be known as one of the leading forces behind the Tigers’ success. But until then, he intends to continue “looking up to seniors” and help Fenton “get a tradition going.”
It’s not about stats. No, it’s about much more than that.
“There is a lot of pride, I’d say, that goes into our team,” said Grimes, who credited lineman like Nick Chappell, Alex Branoff and Cody Hocevar for clearing gaps that he’s ran through. “That’s what we’re about.”
The Tigers escaped the first round of the playoffs with a 22-19 win over this past Friday over the Harrison Hawks, a perennial contender. Downing Walled Lake Western won’t be easy, either.
But Fenton is where Grimes thought it would be this time of year. He’s known since 7-on-7 camps that the group around him had a certain winning quality that couldn’t be contained.
“Well, we were sure hoping for it,” Grimes said of his team’s success. “We worked hard enough and we deserved it. Our team as a whole did really well this season.”
The true test comes Friday. And more, depending on the outcome, will follow each week. Beating the Hawks was a proud moment, but resting on past victories won’t get the Tigers anywhere.
But thoughts of avenging past losses could.
“It’s just another week, you know -- we have to keep moving on,” Grimes said of the Tigers’ win over the Hawks. “We lost to Lowell in regionals, and it’s been kind of driving us. We’re looking back to Lowell, that’s what driven us this far.”
Remembering a Fenton Legend
I knew him well enough to know that he loved sports, at any level.
A passionate fan of the game, he paid close attention to Flint-area prep and college levels; he especially loved basketball and high school football.
And if Vince Harrison were here today, he would be at Fenton High this Friday to watch the Tigers play Walled Lake Western in Round 2 of the MHSAA playoffs.
That's just what kind of guy he was; he was also a firm believer in encouraging the younger generations and sharing Fenton athletics lore.
And that's how I met Mr. Harrison, who I learned from a Tigers football staff member died in early September, just weeks after I had lunch with him at Lucky's Steakhouse in Fenton. Vince closely followed my journalism career after I wrote a feature about the Tigers 1946 Class B runner-up basketball team, his team.
We became friends afterward, and that story meant a lot to me. To this day, it's one my personal favorites.
I attended a couple of Fenton sports hall of fame dinners, and Vince was always good for conversation about today's Tigers, and he surely didn't mind talking about the past greats, either. When I covered Mott Bears basketball for The Flint Journal, Vince was one of their most dedicated fans. I don't remember a home game during the 2010-11 season in which he wasn't in attendance.
From games at different levels, to hall of fame dinners and phone interviews, Vince became more of a friend and less than one of dozens of great people I met during my time at The Journal. I was saddened last Friday after learning of his death.
I remember our last lunch, and he gave me invaluable advice -- advice that I took. I never got the chance to tell him how things turned out for me, either.
So here it goes.
Thanks for the wisdom, Vince