|Restore the roar|
|New West Charlotte football coach has tall task|
|Published Wednesday, February 12, 2014 12:00 pm|
The recruiting part of Mo Collins’ job at West Charlotte High is underway.
|PHOTO/HERBERT L. WHITE|
|New West Charlotte High football coach Mo Collins has state championship experience as a player at his alma mater as well as earning a national title at Florida. After going 0-11 last season, Collins is undertaking the task of returning the Lions to prominence. “The talent’s here, but the program being in the state it’s been in, a lot of kids lost interest,” he said.|
Collins, who was introduced as his alma mater’s head football coach last week, is taking on the task of revitalizing Mecklenburg County’s most iconic program. That means connecting with athletes who couldn’t or wouldn’t play for the Lions, who went 18-40 over the last five seasons, including 0-11 in 2013 under former coach Marcus Surratt. It means engaging a study body that found other diversions on Friday nights.
And there’s the alumni, who once packed the stands at home and road games, now content to stay away.
“The talent’s here, but the program being in the state it’s been in, a lot of kids lost interest,” said Collins, 37, an assistant on last year’s squad. “It’s not cool to be a West Charlotte football player, but I had a core group of guys who stuck through the season last season, a core group of guys putting in time in the weight room now. We’re investing the time and they’re seeing the results already.”
Collins, who played six seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, won an N.C. 4A championship at West Charlotte in 1995 and an NCAA national title at Florida in 1997. His background is an asset for a team looking to contend in the MeCKa 4A, where Mallard Creek won last year’s 4AA championship and Hough is a rising power. Across the county, Butler has won three state titles in the last five years.
“As far as Mallard Creek and Butler, they’re the gold standard of Charlotte, some would say the state and the nation,” Collins said. “We’ve got some big shoes we’re going against, but I think pound for pound, toe to toe, if we pay attention to detail, if we get back to the basics, we work hard in the weight room and put together a solid coaching staff …I don’t think there’s anybody in the state that can compete with us.”
That’s the kind of swagger sophomore guard/defensive tackle Davion Stephens wants to hear. After going winless last season, West Charlotte needs the enthusiasm Collins brings.
“He’s a great person,” Stephens said. “I feel I can trust him now because I know him as a person and all the stuff we did last year he’s going to change. We’re lifting now, extra running, everything.”
That interaction with players during the trying 2013 campaign is what made Collins a good hire, West Charlotte Athletics Director Chris Satterfield said. It also helps that Collins understands the history and culture of West Charlotte, which gave him an advantage.
“Being here last year … to work with the kids, seeing some of the needs in terms of developing kids, it just kind of all worked out,” Satterfield said. “Had he not been here, I can’t say what direction we would’ve went, but he connected with the kids and the kids responded to him.”
In addition to offseason workouts with returning players, Collins is looking to improve the academic performance of potential players, a major barrier to full participation in previous seasons. On the field, he favors equal distribution on offense and attacking defense.
“I would love to run a variation of the spread offense, but I want to keep a good balance between the pass and the run,” Collins said. “On defense, I want to be aggressive. That’s always been our trademark, our symbol. We want to be a dominant team. We want to put fear in people’s heart.”
Collins is recruiting former players and alumni to take a more active role. Getting the once-rabid West Charlotte fan base to embrace Friday nights is key to putting spirit back into the program.
“I’m going to make a (concerted) effort to extend a hand,” he said. “I go to the alumni meetings and see a lot of older alumni but that gap from the ‘90s all the way up to now is (evident). I’m trying to find out what it is going to take to bridge that because I want them to come back.”
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