GRAY — In seventh grade, Tyler St. Pierre wanted to play football.
It was a bold new adventure for a kid that had grown up playing soccer. It was so daring, his mother put the kibosh on the idea almost immediately.
“She was like, ‘You’re too small. Soccer, you’re good at soccer and you should stay with it.'” St. Pierre recalled.
That moment came and went, but the possibility never left his mind. If anything, that seed only grew.
“All my friends were always talking about never having a kicker,” St. Pierre said. “I played soccer. So they were like, ‘Why don’t you come play on the football team?'”
That idea became reality this season. He’d been thinking about it again. It meant getting approval not only from his mother, but also his soccer coach. After some wrangling, St. Pierre is now getting his kicks with two Gray-New Gloucester athletic programs.
“I’m a senior, and I thought it would be a good way to go out,” St. Pierre said. “I could play two sports this fall and have some fun with it.”
St. Pierre has continued his stellar play with the soccer team, which is ranked fifth in Western B at 5-3-2. He practices occasionally on his kicking game and dons the pads and helmet for the gridiron.
“I have to keep the ball low for soccer and high for football,” St. Pierre said. “I seem to find myself in soccer practice kicking it high, but I’ve been keeping it fairly low in games. When I go into football games, I have to really think to kick high and lean back more because the ball has to go higher.”
He’s continued to be a top scorer for the Patriots’ soccer team while doing his job with the football team, currently 0-6.
“Right now, he’s 3-for-3,” football coach Mark Renna said. “He’s a natural athlete. He’s a quick learner. He excels at everything he does. He’s a special athlete.”
Renna, who was a Western Maine Conference all-star last fall, met up with St. Pierre in the weight room at school late last spring. Renna asked if St. Pierre played football.
“I was like, ‘No, I don’t. I play soccer, but I’ve thought about the idea of trying to kick for a couple of years.”
That began a dialogue that led to St. Pierre seeking approval from both his mother and his soccer coach. He ultimately got approval from his mother, Misty, by convincing her that he wouldn’t get hit as a kicker.
“I knew my mom wasn’t going to like it,” St. Pierre said. “She was like, ‘You’re too good at soccer. You can’t give it up.’
“Coach, I was nervous to ask because I wasn’t sure what he was going to say.”
Coach Andy Higgins was caught by surprise by the request, and wasn’t fond of the idea at first.
“I was a little bit hesitant,” Higgins said. “Tyler’s been a big part of what we’ve done the last couple of years. After giving it more thought, it was something he was passionate about and something he wanted to do. It was a great opportunity and a chance at a great experience and memory for him. So my decision was to jump on it 100 percent and become his biggest fan.”
St. Pierre joined the football team for some summer sessions, juggling it with his summer baseball, soccer and workout schedule.
He actually had never kicked a football, other than a few tries back in middle school. His first few practice kicks hit his linemen teammates in the back.
“It was kind of bad,” St. Pierre said. “My first three were really off. Then Coach gave me a little information on how to kick it better.”
That became his homework, and St. Pierre began learning the proper technique for kicking field goals.
“He figured out what he had to do by himself,” Renna said.
Renna had seen St. Pierre work diligently in the weight room. He could tell that this was an athlete that was dedicated and would work hard. That was the kind of athlete he wanted on his team.
“He was really excited,” Renna said. “You could tell he wanted to play both sports. So I wanted to give him a small role. Our kicker last year was an exchange student, and he graduated. So there was a need.”
St. Pierre even tried an onside kick — and recovered it himself. There’s been talk about maybe a play or two at wide receiver. Both coaches have discussed and have approved the idea. So has his mother.
St. Pierre says his schedule is tiring, but it has as much to do with juggling senior year activities and college plans. He’s planning on going to St. Joe’s and playing soccer and baseball while hoping to get a teaching degree.
Though he bounces between the two teams, he knows all the kids on each squad and feels like he’s part of two families. Between the coaches working together to do what is best for St. Pierre and enjoying this little adventure as well, it has been a positive for all involved.
“It’s been fun to watch,” said Higgins. “It’s been great to see. It’s helped bring the two programs together. There’s never been any real issues between them, but we’ve adopted a ‘One School, One Team’ motto. This really illustrates what we’re trying to do in our school.”