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Former Montreal Alouettes fullback, Grey Cup winner Michael Soles passes away at 54

Michael Soles played four of his 11 seasons in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes. Credit: Montreal Alouettes

Former Montreal Alouettes fullback Michael Soles passed away on Wednesday at the age of 54 after a lengthy struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The team confirmed Soles passing in a news release on Thursday.

“Our thoughts go to his family and friends,” said Alouettes General Manager Danny Maciocia. “He was a great football player and always saw the Alouettes like his second family.”

Born in Pointe-Claire, Que., in 1966, Soles was a West Islander through and through.

He went to St. Thomas High School, went to John Abbot College and went to McGill,” said Soles’ brother Derek.

While at McGill, Soles led the team to a Vanier Cup national championship in 1987 and was the first Canadian university player selected in the 1989 CFL draft, going fifth overall to Edmonton.

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He spent seven seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos winning a Grey Cup title in 1993 and was selected as a Northern Division all-star in 1995.

Derek, however, said his brother jumped at the chance to play for the Alouettes when the team made its return to the Canadian Football League in the late 1990s, after folding in 1987.

“When they first came back, the Alouettes, that’s where he wanted to go,” Derek said.

He was going there, hell or high water. He wanted to be there and be in his hometown, be with his family and have his kids grow up in his hometown.”

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Soles played four seasons in Montreal and left his mark on the team.

“Soles was the face of the Alouettes when the team made a return in the league. He was a true leader on the team and in the community,” said Alouettes President Mario Cecchini.

He was elected a CFL all-star his first year on the squad and won the Lew Hayman Trophy as the most outstanding Canadian player in the East Division. When he retired from the CFL in April 2000, he had accumulated 3,007 rushing yards on 579 carries, 3,501 receiving yards on 325 receptions and 70 career touchdowns including 45 for rushing.

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He gave everything he possibly could to a team, whatever team he was on. He was going to give you everything he got. And he tried to instill that on other players,” said Derek.

Soles is being remembered not only for his winning attitude but for his courage on and off the field.

“He fought until the end and despite being sick, he never gave up and was always smiling. He had a great influence on my career and was more than a friend for me,” said Maciocia.

“We will all remember a fighter, a true soldier and he will be missed,” added Cecchini.

For Derek, what stands out is how Michael would put others first even while facing his own struggles.

“He just wanted to make everyone happy and have a great time … he would strive for that,” he said.

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Diagnosed with ALS in 2005, Soles devoted the time he could to creating awareness and raising funds to find a cure for the illness.

“He tried the very best he could and he knew it was too late for him, but you never know, maybe further down the road … maybe someone or something could cure it,” said.

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But above and beyond being an athlete, Soles will be remembered as a family man.

He was a great dad, like he loved his kids, like you would not believe,” said Derek.

Soles is survived by his wife Catherine and his three children, Anthony, Matthew and Justine.

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