Head of the class

Collins ready to lead Rams as new­est foot­ball coach

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Ja­son Mur­dock

For the Rams, the motto is sim­ple: Ex­pect to win.

That is the mes­sage New­ton first-year head coach Nick Collins will try to teach his var­sity foot­ball team over the next four weeks be­fore wel­com­ing crosstown ri­val East­side on Au­gust 31.

“It’s early,” noted Collins, a for­mer Dublin High School as­sis­tant head coach. “We’ve added 30 new play­ers in this week alone, so the tran­si­tion is still go­ing on.”

Al­though the first of­fi­cial prac­tice started Wed­nes­day, Collins has had the op­por­tu­nity to watch most of the play­ers dur­ing the spring and sum­mer work­outs.

“The kids are still learn­ing, but we’ve got a gen­eral idea — we know the di­rec­tion we want to go,” said Collins. “It’s just a mat­ter of stay­ing healthy and the kids un­der­stand­ing the new of­fense, the new de­fense and the new kick­ing game.”

Collins was of­fi­cially hired in April to re­place Ben Reaves, who led the Rams for nine years and com­piled an over­all 42-51 record. Ear­lier this year, Reaves re­signed and ac­cepted a coach­ing po­si­tion at Put­nam.

For Reaves, the dag­ger in the heart came dur­ing the sea­son-opener against East­side, to which New­ton fell, 21-20. It set the ta­ble for how things would even­tu­ally pan out for the Rams (3-7 over­all).

“Well, I’ve got­ten a gen­eral feel,” said Collins re­gard­ing how im­por­tant the first game of the sea­son will be against East­side. “We’ve got to do some things well and do (them) well in a hurry.”

At Dublin, Collins and the Ir­ish won its fourth state ti­tle in Re­gion 4-AA last year.

“The way you get things ac­com­plished quickly is to get fa­vored lo­cally, and the only way you’re go­ing to do that is to beat your crosstown (teams),” said Collins. “If you can’t beat East­side and Al­covy, you’re not go­ing to get a whole lot done around here.”

The Rams will put on the pads next week, which is when Collins should get a bet­ter idea of ex­actly what he has on the field.

“I’ve hired a bunch of great coaches whose job is to get us ready to win,” said Collins. “So, my ex­pec­ta­tion is to win ev­ery time I walk on the field, and in that same sense, build for the fu­ture (by) bring­ing some young guys up.”

To prove just how much Collins wants the Rams to win, he and his staff have poured over count­less video tapes (20), dat­ing back the last two years. In ad­di­tion, they have also watched sev­eral mid­dle school games to cri­tique up-and-com­ing tal­ent.

“ We still have some time

“I ‘ve said it be­fore and I’ve made no bones about it: I want to throw the foot­ball 20-25 times a night, which means we’ve got to have it a long time and we’ve got to be suc­cess­ful at do­ing it. This is 5A foot­ball and it needs to start look­ing like 5A foot­ball.”

— we’re sift­ing through a lot right now,” said Collins, “ and I put a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity like that on my as­sis­tant coaches.”

Along­side the rookie head coach is a re­vised 12-man coach­ing staff that as­sists with ev­ery­thing from fundrais­ing to spe­cial teams. But not all of the coaches are new to New­ton County. De­spite all the re­vi­sions, Sean Cahill, Perry Hay­more and Billy Roper are still among the pro­gram.

Since Cahill was al­ready familiar with the of­fen­sive sys­tem, Collins added him to the staff. And there was no need for Roper — who is the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor — to step aside be­cause there wasn’t a change needed.

Nick Collins

Foot­ball head coach, New­ton High School

“I was re­ally im­pressed,” said Collins re­gard­ing Roper. “When I watched (the) film, I knew they could play de­fense here; I had no doubt about it. So, it was just one of those sit­u­a­tions where there was no sense in mak­ing a change.”

Collins pro­moted Hay­more to as­sis­tant head coach based on his ded­i­ca­tion to the Rams. Prior to the pro­mo­tion, Hay­more held the long­est ten­ure as a coach with the New­ton foot­ball pro­gram.

“He’s in­valu­able,” said Collins. “Be­cause of the things he’s able to do here, you just can’t go out and hire some­one to re­place him.”

De­spite a lengthy process filled with many in­ter­views and de­bate, de­ter­min­ing the rest of his coach­ing staff came nat­u­rally for Collins — he wanted coaches who could im­me­di­ately res­ur­rect a win­ning pro­gram.

“I think I hired guys who knew what I wanted,” said Collins.

Collins ad­mit­ted that af­ter want­ing to be a head coach for so long, he had al­ready de­vised a long list of coaches he an­tic­i­pated by his side once given the op­por­tu­nity. How­ever, this level of think­ing evap­o­rated af­ter giv­ing it some more thought.

“It wasn’t a mat­ter of hir­ing my friends,” said Collins. “I had to find guys who were good peo­ple, good teach­ers and fit the char­ac­ter and fit the scheme of what we’re try­ing to do, be­cause we don’t just teach foot­ball.”

Orig­i­nally, Collins had wanted to keep all of the for­mer as­sis­tant coaches.

“The thing about high school coach­ing is you have to match coach­ing slots with jobs,” said Collins. “If you can keep all the ex­ist­ing guys here, it’s easy to do. But we weren’t able to do that. There were guys who were very, very loyal to Ben Reaves, and when Ben left sev­eral guys went with him.

“And other guys got op­por­tu­ni­ties, too, so we had to fill the staff,” added Collins.

Tim Hur­son, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, came along with Collins; how­ever, they are the only coaches from Dublin.

“We didn’t run this sys­tem at Dublin,” said Collins, “but Tim is such a smart of­fen­sive foot­ball coach (that) it didn’t take much for him to adapt what we did at Dublin to fit this of­fense.”

With­out di­vulging too much in­for­ma­tion, Collins said that his team will run mul­ti­ple for­ma­tions this year.

“I had a blue­print and handed it to my coaches, telling them there (it) is, make it work. We were able to cre­ate a pack­age (so) that we could get our best ath­letes the foot­ball in a variety of ways. But it’s still a com­pe­ti­tion.”

For ex­am­ple, New­ton lost a ma­jor por­tion of its of­fense, par­tic­u­larly at the run­ning back po­si­tion.

“I can’t tell you right now how much dif­fer­ence there is at that (po­si­tion),” said Collins. “We’re ex­cited be­cause we’re deep at that po­si­tion — two se­niors, a sopho­more and two dy­namic fresh­men. It’s just a mat­ter of find­ing the ways to be suc­cess­ful and

“M y ex­pec­ta­tions are high, and I hate it when peo­ple tell me (that) in three years we’re go­ing to get this thing turned around. Why do I have to wait three years? Our motto this year is plain and sim­ple — ex­pect to win, and that’s what we’re go­ing to do.”

get­ting the balls to them.”

An­other change that Collins hopes to en­act is the over­all style of New­ton foot­ball, es­pe­cially on the de­fen­sive end.

“We want peo­ple to be ex­cited about watch­ing us play de­fense,” said Collins. “And then there’s the em­pha­sis that we’re go­ing to put on the kick­ing game — I don’t want any­one to be bet­ter than us at the kick­ing game.”

Other changes have come by way of rais­ing money through fundrais­ers for the pur­chase of new uni­forms and out­dated equip­ment. Since New­ton County does not pro­vide fund­ing for ath­let­ics — and New­ton High School can only pro­vide a lim­ited amount — the only money the Rams gen­er­ate is through gate rev­enue.

With the help from his coach­ing staff, Collins got rid of the old equip­ment and raised money to pur­chase new equip­ment and other needs by hold­ing a fundraiser, to which they raised ap­prox­i­mately $6,000. (Pre­vi­ously, Chris­tian Amos, who is the strength and con­di­tion­ing coach, helped raise $9,000 in just seven days.) In ad­di­tion, they went door-to-door and re­vamped the booster club to gen­er­ate more do­na­tions.

“All (of) those things have gone hand-in-hand to help the pro­gram,” said Collins.

But the big­gest change for Collins is not be­ing around his fam­ily. His wife, Mon­ica, is orig­i­nally from Dublin, as is her en­tire side of the fam­ily.

“The big­gest adjustment is com­ing here and not hav­ing that fam­ily sup­port — that group­ing — right there around you,” ad­mit­ted Collins. “That’s prob­a­bly been the big­gest thing.”

Be­fore he was at Dublin, Collins spent two years as the linebackers coach at North­side

— Nick Collins Foot­ball head coach, New­ton High School

High School. Prior to that, he spent one year as the run­ning backs coach and ju­nior var­sity head coach at Jef­fer­son County High School.

Ear­lier in his ca­reer, Collins spent three years at Mid­dle Ge­or­gia Col­lege, serv­ing as ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant to the head coach, as well as sev­eral other po­si­tions.

Collins is a 1988 grad­u­ate of Lib­erty-Eyla High School in Texarkana, Texas. He is also a ’96 and ’98 grad­u­ate of Prairie View A&M Univer­sity, where he earned both a B.S. in Health and Hu­man Per­for­mance and a Masters in Ed­u­ca­tion.

Based on his ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s ev­i­dent Collins is ready to turn the New­ton foot­ball pro­gram around; how­ever, there are other con­cerns be­sides win­ning that cur­rently sur­round him.

“Ex­pect­ing too much too soon,” said Collins af­ter a long pause. “My wife is quick to re­mind me that Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

The other con­cern is get­ting the com­mu­nity to buy in to what he is do­ing.

“My big­gest dis­ap­point­ment so far is the lack of sup­port from the lo­cal busi­ness in­dus­try, and get­ting those peo­ple to un­der­stand that we can’t field a team with­out money,” ad­mit­ted Collins.

But per­haps af­ter the Rams win some games they will be­gin to earn the trust from the gen­eral pub­lic.

“I can un­der­stand the lo­cal sit­u­a­tion,” said Collins, “and (three high schools) bang­ing on your door for money. Plus, you’ve got ev­ery other pro­gram, too — there’s only so much you can do. But like I tell our coaches all the time: Win­ning is your big­gest fundraiser, and it holds true wher­ever you go.”

De­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties in rais­ing money for the team and a ma­jor em­pha­sis on the new coach­ing staff, there is much more to sim­ply hav­ing a good foot­ball team.

“It’s not just about foot­ball,” said Collins. “I’ve asked ev­ery­one to take a part cre­at­ing ex­cite­ment in the school among our kids. I’ve asked for the band to do some things for us on (game) night and I’ve asked the cheer­lead- ers to do some things for us on (game) night. I want ev­ery­one to take part and change the over­all style of the way we play foot­ball here.”

And Collins does not stop there be­cause he un­der­stands the im­por­tance of hav­ing a suc­cess­ful pro­gram.

“What peo­ple don’t un­der­stand is (that) this thing is a three-headed mon­ster,” ac­knowl­edged Collins. “The band plays a very vi­tal role and some­times can make or break you. If you’re not on the same page with your band (then) it can be more of a hin­drance than a help.

“The cheer­lead­ers play a vi­tal role,” added Collins, “and there are times where their sup­port is that lit­tle some­thing you need to put you over the top. And it’s not just on (game) night; it’s ev­ery­thing we do gen­er­ally — fundrais- ing, spirit in the school, the whole bit. So, you have to in­cor­po­rate the band and the cheer­lead­ers — you have to. And that gets the young peo­ple in our school ex­cited about what we’re do­ing.”

Collins is en­cour­ag­ing ev­ery­one to at­tend the an­nual Blue and White scrim­mage at 1 p.m. on Au­gust 11 at New­ton High School. The cost of at­ten­dance is one box of laun- dry de­ter­gent, so the team will have enough soap to wash their uni­forms through­out the sea­son. (It costs the team ap­prox­i­mately $4,000 per year for laun­dry de­ter­gent.)

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

New era: Nick Collins, a for­mer Dublin as­sis­tant head coach, re­placed Ben Reaves ear­lier this year as head coach of the New­ton var­sity foot­ball team. Collins will lead the Rams on the grid­iron based on three sim­ple words: Ex­pect to win.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Traf­fic con­troller: Nick Collins di­rects the sec­ond of­fi­cial day of foot­ball prac­tice Thurs­day af­ter­noon at New­ton High School. Collins en­ters his first year as the head coach for the Rams.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Leader of the pack: New­ton’s Nick Collins takes a time­out Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon be­fore lead­ing the Rams on the field dur­ing their first of­fi­cial day of prac­tice. Collins has the team headed in the right di­rec­tion: Up.

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