Author: Alex Nieves|Alex Nieves
Occidental College honored one of its all-time football greats by holding the first ever jersey retirement in the long and illustrious history of its football program on Saturday. The number one jersey of quarterback Andy Collins, who tragically passed away from a heart attack on Aug. 2, 2011 at the age of 27, will never again be worn by a Tigers football player.
Collins attended Occidental from 2004-2006 after transferring from the University of Oregon. He had an immediate and monumental impact on the field for the Tigers, leading the program to a remarkable 26-0 regular season record during his career as the starting quarterback. Collins also took the Tigers to three straight NCAA tournaments, including an appearance in the Elite Eight of the 2004 tournament, after the program had not seen postseason action since 1985.
Individually, Collins garnered many awards and achievements for his on-field success. While at Occidental, Collins was named the SCIAC Offensive Player of the Year three times, making him the only player in the history of the SCIAC to accomplish that feat. Collins also achieved recognition as the top quarterback of the year in 2006, decided by the American Football Coaches Association, as well a third team All-American by the NCAA Division III.
But it was not just Collins’s athletic ability and natural born talent at the quarterback position that garnered him the love and admiration of his teammates, friends and coaches. It was also his fun-loving and selfless attitude towards everyone around him.
“He was always caring, he always would help out with the
younger guys if they ever had any questions,” said Adam Rossi, a former roommate and teammate of Collins. “No matter what he always made time. We had roommate nights and he would always make sure that there was one night where we all go eat together. He was great.”
Before the actual jersey retirement, friends, teammates and family gathered at a reception where they could talk about past games and remember all of the traits that made Collins so special to them.
As the large group stood around the crowded room, watching a highlight film of amazing Collins moments and laughing about the times they had spent with him, it was obvious that Collins had the ability to touch and inspire all of those who surrounded him.
For Collins’ former teammates, there are a few moments in particular that still stand out in their minds from the many times they took the field with him as their leader.
“We went to Concordia-Morehead in the playoffs, the second round of the playoffs,” said former teammate of Collins, Mike Libby. “[Collins] had just an amazing game and after the fact we were getting interviewed and he just deflected every question to his teammates.”
As for the coaches who had the opportunity to mentor Collins, it was the drive and dedication towards everything that he undertook that the coaches remember most about him.
“He was everything you want from a player,” said Offensive Coordinator Eric Bergstrom.
“He was the first guy to practice, and the last guy to leave. He also had an incredible work ethic. It didn’t matter what we were doing, he did it at full speed and with full focus.”
Prior to kickoff, the Collins family received a framed number one jersey in a ceremony that drew a standing ovation from the crowd.
Then the team took the field against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) Stags, looking to have their first win of the season occur on a very emotional, homecoming night. The Tigers were able to do just that.
Behind quarterback Tommy Edwards (junior), the Tigers were able to rack up 387 yards and four touchdowns through the air on the way to a 34-21 victory.
Occidental was able to set up the pass with an improved ground game, as Casey Dudley (sophomore) rushed for 61 yards on 16 carries
The Tigers found themselves down eight points at halftime, but were able to grab the lead for good early in the fourth quarter on a 73 yard touchdown connection between Edwards and wide receiver Ryan Rodriguez (senior).
For the Tigers, this was by far their most well played game of the season and the much improved performance from the first three games could not have come on a better night. It was the kind of win that Collins would be very proud of.
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