By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — Pat Collins laughs because he knows what’s coming after he says he’s been coaching football for 34 years.
“People are always saying, “How long are you going to keep doing this?” ” Collins said. “Well, I don’t play golf, I don’t have many hobbies. I love doing this. Coaching is my hobby. I love helping young people be successful.”
Now he’s lending a hand to South Effingham’s football program. He recently joined the staff as a running backs coach and assistant head football coach.
Collins was still an undergraduate at Georgia Southern in 1989 when he landed his first coaching job as a middle school assistant in Statesboro.
He’s been a head coach for 19 years and an athletic administrator for 11. Often, he took on rebuilding projects and accumulated a 98-101-1 record as a head coach at Southeast Bulloch, Claxton, Portal, Screven County, then a second time at SEB (2010-2016) and finally at Bulloch Academy.
“Obviously, coach Collins is an extremely experienced coach,” Clark said. “I was intrigued by his background and experience as a head coach. And once I started talking to him, I realized what a good person he is.”
Collins brings expertise in operating the Wing T offense, an attack SEHS’ junior varsity tinkered with last season. The Wing T also resembles the single-wing offense Clark used when the Mustangs starting quarterback suffered a broken arm in 2020.
Collins learned from the best — long-time successful coaches Robert Davis and Luther Welsh. Both used the run-oriented, power offense to win three state championships at Warner Robins and Thomson, respectively.
Collins added Statesboro coach Buzz Busby as a third mentor. Busby won a state title with the Blue Devils in 2001.
“I think coaches are products of their experiences and I’ve been fortunate to be around some Hall of Famers,” Collins said. “There was an awful lot to be learned by working with those guys. … All I’ve ever tried to do is study really successful people and learn from them. You never get too old to learn from people and take the things that helped them be successful and implement those things.”
Or too young.
“(Collins has) come in in the matter of three months and made a drastic change,” SEHS junior quarterback Kaden De Genaro said. “We all joke around as players and call him a perfectionist, but everything about him is perfect.
“He’s making us all better. We’re all clicking at the same speed. We’re running drills at game speed. It’s molding the right attitude we need to be a successful program.”
It’s easy to follow someone successful. Collins used the Wing T to lead SEB to a 5-0 mark and first place in Region 1-AAA Division B play in 2014. At Bulloch Academy, he had a 9-3 record in 2018 and 7-4 in 2019 while averaging about 35 points a game.
In recent years, South has struggled offensively — averaging about 10 points a game in 2020 and 15 in 2021.
And a run-oriented offense that uses up the clock can help a struggling defense as well. The Mustangs surrendered more than 40 points a game last year.
Collins says he’s willing to do whatever the Mustangs need and he doesn’t mind sharing his wisdom anywhere on campus.
“I hope to help young people reach their full potential, whether it’s in the classroom as a teacher or out here on the field,” said Collins, who will teach math at SEHS. “I’m hoping some of the experiences I’ve had can be used out here to help a kid be successful.”