Walpole's Collins Has UMass appeal - UMass Athletics

Walpole's Collins Has UMass appeal

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The Walpole Times has a wonderful lengthy feature on freshman Ryan Collins from Walpole.

When the time came it seemed like everyone in Massachusetts knew where Walpole's Ryan Izzo, the state's all-time football scoring leader, was going to college.

When his time came, only Izzo's Super Bowl champion teammate, Ryan Collins knew where he was going.

Ironically, they both ended up in the same place, UMass-Amherst, where Izzo is playing lacrosse and Collins football. And that makes Collins the benefactor of an exciting new concept that will be kicking off this Saturday at Gillette Stadium: The Colonial Classic.

By Keith Lewis
Posted Oct 20, 2010 @ 07:19 PM
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   When the time came it seemed like everyone in Massachusetts knew where Walpole's Ryan Izzo, the state's all-time football scoring leader, was going to college.
   When his time came, only Izzo's Super Bowl champion teammate, Ryan Collins knew where he was going.
   Ironically, they both ended up in the same place, UMass-Amherst, where Izzo is playing lacrosse and Collins football. And that makes Collins the benefactor of an exciting new concept that will be kicking off this Saturday at Gillette Stadium: The Colonial Classic.
   The Classic, slated to be played annually at Gillette, pits two of the biggest Division 1A rivals in the country as the Minutemen take on their long-time rivals to the north, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. It's not only the rivalry that's appealing, but also the fact that both programs have had a lot of success in recent years.
   Adding to the rivalry is the fact that many of the players in the game have their own local stories, and those from Massachusetts finally get to play in the venue they dreamed of competing in while in high school: Gillette Stadium, where most of the Eastern Massachusetts Super Bowls are played. (The Classic will kick off at 3:30 Saturday afternoon.)
   Of course for some UMass players like Collins, that dream was realized long before this Saturday. For Collins, it was realized twice, in 2007 when the Rebels lost a thrilling 26-20 nail-biter to Bishop Feehan in a sub-freezing Super Bowl and 2008, when Izzo and Sonny Mastromatteo led them to a 41-21 victory over Mansfield. Suffice it to say, Collins is one of those who won't have to ask for directions when he gets there.
   "I love it," says Collins of the thought of playing a school rival in Foxborough again. "It's like a home game for me, I've already played there twice."
It's also like a home game in that the stadium on Rte. 1 is four miles from Turco Field in Walpole.
   How Collins even got to UMA is a story in itself, and he came a lot closer to playing for Coast Guard than UMass coming out of high school.
   According to Collins he had an interest in Coast Guard and the Middies had an interest in him, even putting him through a barrage of tests and requests that he passed with flying colors.
   But somewhere along the line he visited Amherst and fell in love with the school and the idea of what he could accomplish there.
   "I walked on last fall," explains Collins. "The coach said they didn't have enough room for me, but I played spring ball with them and they invited me to camp.
   "I had offers to go to the Coast Guard Academy, but I wanted to see if I could play at the top level," continues the strong safety.
   Walpole Coach Barry Greener was surprised, but not totally.
   "He's a very good safety, smart, talented, a very good player," says Greener. "But I didn't think he'd go D1, no. He would be a big fish at the Coast Guard Academy, but he's in a great program. They love him up there; I've already talked to the coaches."
   Collins has his work cut out for playing time in 2011, however. The squad was ranked 12th in Div. 1A nationally, and played Div 1 power Michigan of the Big Ten so competitively Sept. 18 that the 20th-ranked Wolverines barely escaped in Ann Arbor, 42-37.
   But since he's not on scholarship Collins had to be noticed the hard way: as an unknown walk-on. After succeeding at that, he is currently red-shirted but waiting for a chance to play in 2011. While walk-ons are a common sight in schools without scholarship, it is a bit rare at bigger schools, especially in a sport like football with so much recruitment.
   However Collins is used to taking on unusual challenges where he defies the odds.
When he came up to WHS, Collins was known for football and baseball and playing both as a freshman. In fact, the strong-armed outfielder was called up to the talented varsity when it went into the postseason. As a sophomore he started out on varsity but in his junior year decided to go out for track, where his strong throwing arm led him to become one of the top javelin throwers in the league.
   "My main interest after school was football, and I thought that track would better prepare me physically for taking the next step in college," says Collins.
   Collins ran into one uneasy situation upon going to UMass, he admits. Four of the Minutemen - the McCummings (Theo, Thad) and Brandt (Tim, Tom) twins - are old-time Walpole rivals who at first didn't take kindly to the appearance of a former Rebel.
"We didn't all get along right away," admits Collins, whose cousin Tim is also the new AD at Natick High. "I guess it was bad blood between the towns because of the rivalry. But they're good players, and now we're friends. I'm actually roommates with Tim Brandt right now."
   Despite taking two unexpected turns in which at least one person had doubts of their merits, Collins is right where he wants to be, with a bonus: a game every year practically in his own back yard.
   "It would be great to be able to play a game so close to home where I can play in front of Walpole people," says Collins. "I'm really looking forward to next year."


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