Soles Jr., PHS sack leader, signs with UK

By Steve Williams

With Knox County schools closed for the holidays last Wednesday, the official National Signing Day for NCAA Division 1 football programs, Powell High Coach Matt Lowe scheduled a signing ceremony on Tuesday afternoon for Steven Soles Jr., his record-breaking defensive end.

“It was a mock signing,” said Lowe, who wanted Soles to get a taste of what a real signing is like and also allow his family members, coaches, teammates and friends to be there for the special occasion.

Steven officially signed Wednesday with the University of Kentucky “around 8 a.m.,” confirmed Lowe via email.

There was nothing fake about Soles, the football player, either.

“He walked in (to PHS four years ago) with high aspirations,” said Coach Lowe.

And the 6-2, 215-pound defensive end achieved a lot.

His 17 sacks as a junior was a school record for a season and his 47 career sacks is an all-time school record.

“When (the box) goes to 3rd and 10, he knows what exactly to do at that moment,” said Lowe.

Soles was a “Sophomore of the Year” in 2021 when he helped lead the Panthers to the TSSAA Class 5A state championship.

He was a finalist for the Tennessee Titans’ Mr. Football award this past fall and also was voted The Knoxville Focus / Coaches’ Knox County Player of the Year.

Lamar Brown, head coach of West High’s back-to-back state champions, said Soles was “the most explosive player I’ve ever coached against.”

Steven was gracious for the recognition and said to all at the turnout: “Just wanted to let you all know I appreciate you and I thank you.”

Wearing Kentucky blue, Soles said he is looking forward to “having a platform that can get me to the next level. I’m trying to get surrounded by athletes that have the same goal as I do. To push the brotherhood you build; to push the bond you build.”

As for taking the big step from high school football to the major college level, Steven said he’s looking forward to “the competitive nature of it all. Honestly, if I’m not competing, I’m not having fun. Just playing with people who are said to be great athletes; I’m ready to compete and have fun.”

When asked what his main reason was for choosing Kentucky, he recalled: “I had an unofficial visit there. I sat through some meetings and talked to some coaches. It was really the game plan that they see with me in their system, having a good defense and me just being fast and ferocious off the edge.”

Soles added the UK coaches showed him stats and records of past players his speed and size. Leading the SEC in sacks could be a possibility someday.

“I feel like I could be in a good position with those coaches,” he said. “I know I’ll play some outside linebacker as well. I’m pretty excited about (the thought) of being able to move around on the field a lot more.”

Soles said he also had offers from Alabama, South Carolina, Miami, Missouri and Memphis.

When asked if Tennessee offered him a scholarship, Soles answered: “No.”

How do you figure that?

“They don’t want to win,” he replied. “They don’t want to win.”

As for what he might major in, Soles said: “Right now I’m thinking about Business and Economics, but that might change.”

Lowe said Soles was a good student and had a GPA “around 2.8 or 2.7.”

Three generations of Steven’s family attended the ceremony, including his father Steven Soles Sr., a big man who played offensive right tackle at Lane College in Jackson, TN. “I’m very proud of Steven,” he said.

Steven’s mother, Antonia Whitmore; grandmother, Tracy Whitmore; and great grandfather, Eddie Soles Sr; also were at the ceremony.

His grandmother said she remembers starting to give Steven bean juice and cornbread when he was 3 months old.

“I’m so proud and trying not to cry,” she added.

“It’s all been an honor and a blessing,” summed up Steven. “I couldn’t ask for nothing more I guess. I can say I lived a nice life here in high school and met some great people. It’s time to turn the page.”