RED OAK — Some people are destined for a particular profession. Whether it is to be a cobbler, tradesperson, doctor, engineer or astronaut, there are people brought into this world to fulfill a role.
The late Thomas Joseph Collins was a role model for many on the playing field, in the classroom and life. He was a coach on the 1998 Paul Pewitt High School 2A State Champion football team. He was also the Superintendent of Waxahachie ISD from 2007-13.
A Thomas Joseph Collins is now a member of the Red Oak High School coaching staff.
After an extended collegiate baseball career at the University of Nebraska and Dallas Baptist University and a stint in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, Boomer — as he was known while playing quarterback and safety for the Waxahachie Indians from 2005-07 — is fulfilling a legacy many expected.
“Boomer was always a gym rat. In fact, during that 1998 state championship team, wherever Tom was standing there was Boomer being the little water boy and he wasn’t any higher than knee high to a grasshopper,” said Reggie Kumrow, a longtime family friend of the Collins’ and coaching partner of Tom. "He was with us all the time, so you just kind of knew he was always going to do something in athletics.
“He just had that love and that passion for it. I know he will have that same passion when it comes to coaching. The kids are going to love him and he is going to love coaching them. It is all about relationships and how you react to people around you and he’ll do great. I am sure he is going to be just like Tom with how his coaching style is going to be. […] Watching him grow up and be the kind of man that he is is just fantastic.”
Not only was the career move unsurprising to his mother, Sheri, sister, Bridgett – or her husband and Austin Westlake coach Lee Munn – or his wife, Rachel, the step into the high school coaching realm was one Collins himself expected to make.
“I have always been around the coaching world with my dad being a coach and my whole family being in the teaching business,” Collins said. “Basically what it came down to was that I was looking for a job and coach [Matt] Cochran here struck some interest in my and kept calling me wondering if I wanted a job. At first, I kind of blew him off, but it just kept eating at me and I knew that I really wanted to do this. I love to coach. I love to coach kids and obviously I love to be in sports so I just kind of stepped out and took Red Oak up on the job offer.
“Obviously, with baseball I wanted to make it to the big leagues, but when that didn’t work out, I knew I wanted to be in coaching or sports. I always knew that I was going to coach because I just love football too much. Football has always been my passion ever since I was four years old on the football field with dad. I knew at some point whenever I made the decision to go into the real world that it would be to coach.”
So presented before us, is a first-year coach who always expected to be a first-year coach. He claims to have always been a student of the game. Collins also said two-a-days were the “easy stuff.” But no job comes without an adjustment period, which hit Collins like an unblocked linebacker off the blindside on Monday, Aug. 22.
“It’s funny to think about, but the first day of school [was my first wake up call],” Collins said. Two-a-days are easy because all you do is come to the football field, you work with the kids, do practice stuff, watch film and then you go home. But then the first day of school you get up here for practice in the morning and then you have to teach five classes and once you are done with those five classes, you come back down here for football practice.
“You don’t leave till 7:30 or 8 at night, and I can just remember going home Monday and just thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, that was a long day,'” said Collins with a laugh. “But [Tuesday] was super easy. I think it was just that first day of school where everything was super hectic. I was kind of like a frantic freshman running around with no idea much of what was going on.”
Things have certainly gotten easier since then, Collins said, as the routine of teaching two classes of graphic design and three academic enrichment classes plus football duties have “smoothed out.”
Of course, it helps, a lot, that he was put into a situation to excel early in an offense he has already studied while under former WHS head football coach David Ream. While in high school, Collins said he was starting to learn the finer points of the offense such as blocking schemes and running back protection assignments, but now he is watching “10 times” more film, which has helped him grow as a coach “in a matter of weeks.”
“The athletic director, the head coach, the defensive coordinator, the offensive coordinator – every one of those guys have worked for David Ream at some point. They have all been a part of his coaching staff and ran his offense. So I think it is nothing but a positive step for me because it is something that, one, I am familiar with and, two, I can go right into coaching.
“When I am coaching my receivers, I can relay to them what I wanted my receivers to do when I was playing quarterback in this offense or where I wanted them to set up or how I wanted them to run their routes so that I would have more success and I would be able to get you more balls. I just think it is a positive and that I have been put into a comfortable situation.”
Despite the familiarity with the playbook, a household of support and experience to boot, Collins said his ultimate goal is simply to achieve any remote level of admiration community members, teammates and players had for his father.
“If I am half the coach or half the man that he is then I think I will be a successful coach and a successful teacher in the classroom,” Collins said. “I’m just trying to live up to that. I want to do the right things like he did and I want people to look at me in the same light that they looked at him.”
Which is great, according to Kumrow, because “[i]f Boomer follows in his footsteps, he will be a tremendous coach. And I am sure he will be.”
Red Oak will look to rebound from a season-opening overtime loss when the Hawks return to the field Friday against Arlington Heights. The road tilt is slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith