|Pat Collins at Calvary Today|
Collins will also serve as a mentor/counselor in football, assisting in various, undefined roles with head coach John Bachman and his staff. For Collins, it's a "life comes full-circle" move as he joins defensive coordinator Ronnie Alexander on the field again. Collins coached Alexander at Louisiana Tech and hired him to be his defensive coordinator at Northeast Louisiana University (Now ULM).
I told Coach Collins that he was responsible for a terse phone call from my parents during the 1984 football season.
On October 26, 1984, the Panhellenic Council (all sororities) held their Fall Formal. That day, with a freshly painted three point circle in the Pi Kappa Alpha driveway, we staged the first Pike 3-on-3 tournament. We charged a nominal entry fee, something along the lines of $15 bucks per player, to enter the tourney. During the "championship" game, I rolled my ankle severely early in the battle. Without having a substitute, our team, playing a mulleted-man down, quickly fell behind. As a poor college student with a date that night, the money in the pot was a greater motivating factor than the pain served as a deterrent.
Like Willis Reed, I hobbled back onto the court. Playing like a man possessed (I chugged a couple of beers), I helped our team battle back to win the game! Glory Days!
We won the pot! Seriously, the prize of $60 bucks or so per person was pretty sweet. I slowly showered due to the intense pain in my right ankle. By the time I got out of the shower in our luxurious Bryan Manor apartment (only unit in the entire complex that was completely linoleum-floored. We had two lawn chairs, a beanbag and a couch rescued from the dumpster as our only furniture), my ankle was the size of a delicious cantaloupe.
I managed to drive the 1979 Plymouth Horizon to my girlfriend's (Cricket, who became Mrs. Fletcher in 1988 and mother to Sydney in 1991. No longer Mrs. Fletcher, but still mother to Sydney) dorm. Barely able to walk, much less dance, we made our way to the Monroe Civic Center for the Formal. How much pain was I in? The "official" pic from the dance has me holding a Tylenol bottle in one hand while standing on one leg.
"Was Pat Collins the party pic man?"
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No, of course not. That was Greg Burke.
"When will you get to the part about Pat Collins?"
The next night was the NLU-Louisiana Tech game. Collins was in the middle of his tenure as head coach of the Indians at the time (1981-88).
Using crutches, I joined my fraternity brothers and our dates on the walk to Malone Stadium on an unseasonably warm afternoon. Sweating like a Kardashian in church, I eventually settled onto my seat. Slipping a little Jim Beam from Cricket's Final Net bottle into my Coke, I was ready for the game. The Indians struck first on a Rodney Horn pass to Chris Lott. Oddly, Teddy Garcia (later a 4th round pick of the Patriots) missed the PAT. I say "oddly" because Garcia had a bolt of lightning for a leg. He connected on a 50 yard Field Goal before the half to send NLU to the locker room up 9-7 over the Bulldogs.
In the 3rd quarter, Tech took a 10-9 lead on a George Keyola field goal. With a Final Net bottle of whiskey in my belly, the old ankle injury was forgotten, especially as NLU took possession late in the 4th quarter, needing to advance to Tech's 35 or 40 yard line to give Garcia a chance to win the game. The Pat Collins coached Indians marched down to the Bulldogs 28 yard line before the drive stalled with a minute to play. Garcia calmly and coolly split the uprights from 45 yards out to deliver the game-winning points.
|Box Score: NLU vs. Louisiana Tech 1984|
Join them. I cast the crutches aside like Anthony Michael Hall shooing his fellow geeks away after they crashed the beer pyramid in "Sixteen Candles." I jumped (using my good leg) onto the Indians' Gatorade table behind their bench. There was little thought put into this plan, as I rolled my bad ankle the opposite way from the day before when I landed on the wet table. There's no "I" in quit, so I marched on after crumbling to the ground. Finding Pat Collins near midfield conducting a television interview with either/both KNOE or KTVE, I jumped up and down behind our coach, rubbing his hair like a good luck charm.
At some point over the next 10 minutes, the pain in my ankle fought through the whiskey and adrenaline to deliver a sucker punch. Fortunately, fraternity brother Steve Cox could carry a Coke machine on his back, so carrying me piggyback to my apartment a half-mile away was no biggie.
The next morning, with my ankle hidden somewhere underneath the packing material of my swollen skin, I received a call from my parents. Apparently they were watching one of the Monroe stations' newscast the night before and saw their "injured" son hopping around like a floppy haired pogo stick.
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"Thanks for calling on the 'Encompass Sports Line!'"
"It's probably not that bad. It wasn't really hurting last night (a non-lie in the fact I was inebriated and felt no pain) when I was on the field."
"Uh-huh. Were you drinking?"
"I don't believe you."
"Mom... come on!"
"You looked like you were having a high-old time! Didn't look hurt to me!"
A trip to the emergency room that afternoon revealed torn ligaments on both sides of my ankle and across the top of my foot. To this day, my right ankle stiffens like a Porters-Cleaners starched shirt. It hurts like hell after moderate physical activity.
I wouldn't trade the pain for the revelry of that night for anything.
Thanks Coach Collins... and welcome home.