When people think of football and football players, they think of the rough and tough mentality that most of these athletes and coaches possess. When you look at what athletics can provide a student, such as work ethic, dedication and other valuable life lessons, football seems to fit in well. At Seton Hill University, head football coach Isaac Collins is going above and beyond to prepare his athletes not just for the game, but also for their future. When Collins took over the program in 2013 he knew that the culture and mentality of his staff and players needed to change.
“My initial thoughts were to change the culture and our image on campus. We have taken some positive steps in that direction, but due to spending so much time trying to change the culture it has slowed our development on the field,” said Collins. “But I believe if you want to build something right you must have a solid foundation. I know without a doubt that as we get the culture where it needs to be the winning will take care of itself.”
The Griffins finished the regular season 5-6 this year even after starting 3-0 with their wins against Bowie State University, Millersville University and Kutztown University. However, the Griffins started to experience some turmoil during their ride and were only able to capitalize two more wins for the rest of the season against Clarion University by a score of 27-23 and Mercyhurst University by a score of 55-45.
“Although things didn’t end up the way we would have liked, this season was a great building block for the seasons to come,” said Cameron Knapp, senior captain and offensive left tackle this year for the Griffins who transferred to SHU two years ago from Antelope Valley Junior College located in Lancaster, Calif. “The coaches and leaders have a good group returning for next season.”
Two close losses for the Griffins were against Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and Edinboro University. The Griffins lost to the IUP Crimson Hawks, who at the time were ranked top 10 in the nation; the final score was 47-39. Their loss to Edinboro was when Edinboro was ranked in the top 25 in the nation with a final score of 42-34. They had to overcome numerous injuries by key players and ultimately were unable to have the season they desired. Needless to say, Collins and the Griffins have come a long way since he first took over the program in 2013 when they went 1-10, followed by two 3-8 seasons back to back. Although the Griffins may not have finished with a record they wanted, they did however rack up some national attention being the sixth ranked team for total offense out of 171 division II football teams with 5660 yards.
However, football is more than just the playing of a game; it is a lifestyle and constant mentality. Collins and his staff want to develop not just their football skills, but their program’s 4D experience which are: “Develop Principle Leaders (Men of Character). Develop Physically (Healthy Heart Equals Strong Mind and Body). Develop Mentally (Teach them how to Problem Solve, so they can be Life Learners). Develop Emotionally (Spiritual Growth leads to making great decisions consistently)”.
“When I got to SHU we barely had any one at the games, we played in an average conference and our uniforms were baggy and ugly,” said Tim Johnson, a two-time captain and starting outside linebacker for the Griffins. “Now we’re playing competitive football in one of the greatest conferences in the nation with beautiful uniforms on display in front of friends, families, fans, and even our professors. The unity and team spirit has skyrocketed, and has been amazing to witness first hand for the sky’s the limit.”
This is the biggest graduating class for the Griffins since Collins has taken over with 21 seniors set to graduate this semester.
“It was an amazing journey, this year it’s almost like we hit the light switch,” said senior defensive back Ricardo Housen who will go down in the record books as the career leader in interceptions for the Griffins.
For Khalil Howard, senior runningback who racked up a whopping 1101 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season alone said, “My final season at SHU was a great experience to say the least. What I got the most out of it, was learning to stay patient and preserve through adversity.”
Collins has helped these young men to use their football careers as platforms to prepare them for the rest of their lives. Collins’ athletes have a tremendous amount of respect for their coach as he does for them.
“I think they know I love them and I want what is best for them. So when I am hard on them or I hold them to a really high standard they know the tough love is there because I want them to reach their full potential,” Collins said. “When you are honest and you genuinely care for someone they might not always like you, but they do respect you.”
With this high amount of seniors preparing to leave, Collins and his staff the importance of wanting his players to always be a ‘R.E.A.L.’ man is crucial in this time and era. “R-espect Everyone. E-specially Women. A-lways Do The Right Thing. L-ive A Life That Matters,” said Collins. He has, without a doubt, coached his boys to becoming men of the future.