Beach Athlete Heads to College
At a young age Eddie Collins embraced the "beach kid” label, reveling in the laid-back childhood pleasures of beach, sand, sun and sea that children raised on Fort Myers Beach enjoy. He also loved sports and the physical challenges they offered. His success in meeting both physical and academic challenges has earned him an opportunity to play college football.
Next month, he will trade in long lazy days on the beach for college classes and early morning football practices as he heads to Seton Hill University in western Pennsylvania where he has accepted a scholarship offer to play football for the Division II Griffins.
When his family moved to Fort Myers Beach when he was 6 years old, Collins took advantage of the opportunities available for active kids on the beach. He played his first football at Bay Oaks in a flag-football program. Little League, soccer and just about anything athletic kept him engaged. Grinning, he remembered his first flag-football experience.
"It was awesome! My friends and I really got into it. It was so much fun!”
Before heading to Lexington Middle School, Collins recalls placing his handprints in cement, an annual rite of passage for Beach Elementary students before they move on to middle school.
While at Lexington, he played soccer and baseball and got his first taste of tackle football through Pop Warner football.
"In 6th grade I started playing Pop Warner. I started at tight end and safety, even played quarterback in 7th grade but mostly I played a lot of running back.”
At South Fort Myers High School, he focused on one side of the ball for the Wolfpack –offense -- where he found his niche at wide receiver. Playing behind Sammy Watkins in 2010, Collins was ready for his turn at starter when Watkins headed to Clemson.
When asked if he missed playing defense and the opportunity to tackle and knock people down, he didn’t hesitate. "No, I liked running them over better.” It seems he’s pretty good at that --racking up 657 yards and 7 touchdowns in the regular season in his senior year. He smiled as he recalled the Riverdale game where he had 167 receiving yards.
The recruiting process included campus visits to Stetson University, Jacksonville University, Lake Erie College and Jacksonville State University before choosing Seton Hill. Football camps during the last few years at Clemson, University of South Florida and Florida Atlantic University helped give him perspective on a variety of campuses.
However, his first snowball fight, dorm life and the chance to play as a freshman tipped the scales in Seton Hill’s favor.
"I’ll get the chance to start as a freshman. That was a big part of my decision. They have a new coaching staff also, that’s all about winning!”
Since signing with Seton Hill, Collins is focused on preparing for the transition to university life. He heads to Pennsylvania in early July, where he’ll live in a YMCA during summer workouts. Two a day football practices begin August 14th and classes start August 26th.
After sharing a room with his younger brother, he’s not worried about dorm life. The schedule of a college football player may be another matter– that will keep him moving as he begins practice each day at 6am, watches football film for an hour each afternoon and has a two hour mandatory study table each evening. Plus classes of course, and he’s looking forward to all of it.
Hoping to major in biology and looking at a possible nursing career, Collins is a graduate of the 3-year South Fort Myers Medical Academy program, focusing on the phlebotomy track and earning a certificate his senior year.
Seton Hill University is a Catholic liberal arts university of 2600 students located in Greensburg, PA near Pittsburgh. Seton Hill was the first university anywhere to provide faculty and full-time students with an iPad in 2010. Incoming freshmen this year will receive an iPad Mini and a MacBook Air, making it a paper-free school.
This summer’s long beach days are something new for Collins, according to his mother, Cindy Collins. "This is the first time in years that his summer has not been filled with football camps, working out and work,” she said, adding that it’s been nice to see him enjoy the summer before he heads off to college. He has been working with his dad, Ed, so it hasn’t been a total vacation.
His father is originally from Oxford in southeastern Pennsylvania and Eddie will find a cheering section of relatives attending his games, including his parents who are looking forward to road trips to watch Griffin games.
As Collins prepares to head to Seton Hill, his reflections on growing up on the beach revolve around the great friends he’s made here.
"This is the best place to live! I’m going to miss hanging out with my friends, playing beach soccer, surfing, skim boarding – just all the spontaneous fun we’ve had here.”
Cindy Collins points out that Eddie is part of a group of about 10 Beach School graduates who have stayed good friends despite attending different middle and high schools. At a recent dinner their parents held to honor the graduates, they realized that all ten are heading to college, nine of them in Florida.
One of that group, Brian Thibault will be heading cross state to attend Lynn University in Boca Raton on a soccer scholarship. He was also recognized with an award for artistic achievement this spring by the Fort Myers Beach Art Association.
Collins will join another Lee County athlete at Seton Hill. D. J. Oceant-Kelly, wide receiver from Bishop Verot signed this spring to play for the Seton Hill Griffins.