By John Ingoldsby, Player Engagement Insider
It’s said by some that you can’t go home again; unless of course you starred at a storied high school football program and come back to coach.
Such is the situation for former quarterback Todd Collins, who now brings his 11 years of experience as an NFL quarterback to teach that position at Walpole High School, where he led the team to a Massachusetts state championship in 1989, one of eight for the legendary Rebels.
In a town fittingly located next door to Foxborough and the New England Patriots, Collins grew up on the gridiron, recalling, “Those guys were my idols, and I still remember all of their names,” not surprising since his brother played on the school’s 1981 title team.
A team that began building their tradition in the 1970s, and the former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears now works to help keep going.
“I was first asked by a friend to help coach his team at neighboring Medfield High School, which I enjoyed, and then in 2011 Walpole coach Barry Greener asked me to coach the quarterbacks, and I already knew a lot of the staff, so it was a great chance to help out my alma mater.”
His help has proven to be as satisfying for him as it has for the Walpole players themselves.
“I see the high school kids grow, develop and mature, and since I knew some of them from around town, I am happy to help them in both athletics and life,” Collins said. “It’s also gratifying to work with the Walpole coaching staff, most of whom I played with 25 or 30 years ago, so we have shared memories.”
But back in his playing days, Collins began planning for life after football by taking the NFL Player Engagement’s Harvard MBA course since he did not see coaching in his future.
“As I neared the end of my NFL career, I attended the great Harvard program, and had never thought about coaching since I saw the demands and hours that they put in, but the high school level is different and those same pressures are not there,” said the 6’4” 225 pounder, who still looks like he could lace ‘em up today.
Yet those very coaches made a lasting impression on Collins, ranging from the late Bo Schembechler, head coach of the University of Michigan to former Chiefs’ head coach Dick Vermeil, with whom he is still in touch today, as he also is with former teammates like quarterbacks Trent Green and Damon Huard.
“I was fortunate to have the football experience that I did, playing with a few different teams where I built relationships with coaches and fellow quarterbacks, all of whom are great guys,” said Collins, who played for Michigan during the early 1990s.
“Cam Cameron (currently LSU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) was the Michigan quarterbacks coach and recruited me there, and you could see then that he and fellow coach Les Miles were both on an upward trajectory, as they ended up showing at LSU,” Collins recalled. “So they, and the great coaching staff, combined with the blend of academics and athletics made that the place for me, plus it seemed like I watched them every week on TV growing up.”
And that childhood not only included football, but also meeting in fourth grade his eventual wife, with whom he now has three sons that they raise in their Walpole home.
But before their boys came along, he and his wife lived a few towns down the road in a coastal community so he could pursue his other passion of fly fishing.
“I always wanted to live where I could just wake up in the morning and walk to my boat, so during much of my playing career we lived beside a marina, where in the offseason and any other time I could, I was right at the water,” Collins said. “But we always knew we would end up back in Walpole, where both our parents still live, but I still own two boats, including the first small aluminum one I ever bought.”
So fishing remains a hobby, but football is front and center.
“I coach at the school typically six days a week in the afternoons, where I work closely with the offensive coordinator putting in the game plan, practicing it, and then of course playing the game on the weekends,” he said.
Time well spent since Collins recognizes the importance of the game to his hometown’s identity.
“Most people know the town of Walpole because of football, so it’s great to be part of it again.”
John Ingoldsby is the President and Founder of IIR Sports, Inc. a sports media firm based in Boston. He has covered the NFL throughout his career that began as a newspaper reporter/editor, which includes articles in Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine (NFL Player Engagement), London-based Financial Times newspaper (NFL's international strategy), the Philadelphia Daily News (annual NFC Coaches Breakfast) and the Boston Globe (Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll).