116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - When Theo Kolie laces up his cleats before each football game, he receives a swell of inspiration and appreciation.
The message modestly etched near the heel of each custom shoe serves as a tribute to someone special and a reminder to cherish what makes him happy.
Gold letters on the navy blue footwear display the name of his late mother, Denise Kolie, who died a little more than two years ago.
'Every time I go to a game, I pray to her,” Iowa City Regina's senior running back said. 'I even made shoes with her name on it to honor her.
'It helps me get focused and locked in. Every time I think about her I know she is watching over me and helping me to perform my best. Whenever I feel like giving up, I look on my shoes and it gives me motivation to keep going.”
Kolie's drive has allowed him to become one of the most productive backs in Class A this season. He ranks among state leaders in touchdowns and rushing yards for the second-ranked Regals, who open the playoffs with a second-round home game against Wapello (4-3) Friday night.
'He's one of the greatest young men,” Regina Coach Marv Cook said. 'I'm fortunate to coach him. I'm fortunate to have my son (Ashton Cook) hang out with him, too.”
Kolie has persevered adversity and prefers to concentrate on the supportive network of family, friends, teachers and Regina coaches he has attained.
'My progression has not been due to what I have lost but what I have gained,” Kolie noted. 'I am surrounded by so much love that it makes it hard not to succeed. I don't know what the future may hold but I definitely could not have gotten this far without the love and support of everyone around me.”
The journey started in New York and shifted to Guinea when the family moved to the West African nation after he was born. Kolie, who also speaks fluent French, recalled the fond memories with his mom between frequent business trips.
'Every time she came home, we would always have a good time together,” Kolie said. 'I really loved her.”
At the age of 8, Kolie left his parents and returned to the United States to live with his aunt, Felicite, following the death of his grandfather. The goal was to provide a new setting for a fresh start after the loss.
'Once I moved to America, we had all these plans about the future,” Kolie said. 'I told her I was going to buy her a house, a car and all that stuff. It was very unfortunate when she passed away. Now, I won't be able to do any of that stuff. It gives me a stronger drive to work harder.”
They lived in Illinois and moved to Iowa City a couple years later. Kolie said Felicite raised him like her own son.
'I stayed with my aunt,” said Kolie, who added that his aunt, Mena, and her family attend most home games and have become more involved in his life recently. 'I've lived with her ever since. Every day I'm good.”
Many others have played a vital role and Kolie is grateful for it all. Regina staff members Patrick Moeller and Lynne Zoulek have helped with college prep and Stacy Sueppel has provided daily goods as well. Friends Abby Clark and Emma Clark helped him improve conditioning in the offseason.
Football hasn't been a longtime passion for the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder. The sport didn't interest him at first. Kolie was still getting acclimated when Ashton Cook asked him to play in elementary school. He declined then, but accepted when Cook offered again, stopping Kolie on the way to the bus after school in seventh grade.
'It just seemed more interesting, because I didn't really know a lot of people,” Kolie said. 'On the football team, there are a lot of guys going out and at that time we were winning a lot of state championships, too, so I wanted to get involved in that.”
Ashton and Kolie have forged a strong bond and are good friends. They spent a lot of time working out with teammates during the summer. Ashton started to teach him how to fish.
'We have a good relationship,” Kolie said. 'Anytime I need help Ashton is always there, whether it's school or on the football field. He helps me with plays, making sure I know what to do since I'm new to varsity football.”
His abilities are still in their infancy, which is scary for opponents. Kolie played sparingly as a freshman and sophomore. He continued to develop and broke through last season, rushing for 922 yards and eight touchdowns. Kolie added 52 receiving yards and tallied 26 tackles as a defensive end.
'The great thing I like about him is his work ethic,” Marv Cook said. 'He wants to be great. He prepares that way.”
Kolie has torched opposing defense this season, especially district foes. He has 987 rushing yards and 20 TDs. The latter ranks second in Class A. Kolie is more versatile, catching 14 passes for 239 and a score.
The Regals are unbeaten against Class A teams with a 6-1 overall record. Kolie has scored four TDs in each of the last five games, He has evolved as a rusher, understanding the schemes and identifying progressions and angles better.
'I've been able to find the holes a lot better,” Kolie said. 'I've been able to wait and take advantage of the big holes. I still have a lot to work on in my game, breaking more tackles and making sure I finish my blocks.”
Kolie has embraced all challenges and is willing to do anything for the team - rushing, receiving, blocking or tackling.
'He's the complete package for us in the backfield,” Marv Cook said. 'He practices (and) plays fast. He really plays at a high pace. When you play with that kind of motor and intensity it's powerful.”
College programs have taken notice. Kolie has started the recruiting process. He doesn't know what the future will hold but he wants to extend his football career beyond high school.
'It's still pretty new to me so I'm not really sure where things are headed now,” Kolie said. 'After the season ends, I'm going to talk to my coaches, my family and decided where to go next. I definitely want to play football.”
His mother will be with him all the way.
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