In what will essentially be his sixth year with the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, Jesse Collins has played a total of nine games for his hometown team.
But now, with the Golden Hawks riding upward momentum into the 2015 season, he’ll finally get his chance.
“I’m just ready to get back on the field,” said Collins between two-a-day practice sessions at University Stadium last week.
Collins, a Bluevale Collegiate Institute grad, may have the worst luck in Ontario University Athletics.
During his rookie season back in 2010, Collins dressed in three regular season games, setting the path for what should have been a strong football career. But in his second year, the bad luck started.
A routine hit landed the linebacker on the sidelines after his knee essentially exploded. He suffered a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus. He would be out for the rest of his sophomore season.
But then his bad luck continued. Next came the complications.
“I had to have a couple more surgeries to clean out some scar tissue,” said Collins, speaking matter-of-factly about his injuries.
In what would have been his fourth year in 2013, Collins ruptured his hamstring, sending him right back to the operating table.
Knowing he would be out for the 2014 season, Collins, a kinesiology student at Laurier, went to Miami of Ohio University to obtain his Master’s Degree in coaching.
With some time to burn before he could apply for coaching jobs in the U.S., he decided to give Laurier football one more shot.
“It’s been awesome to be back,” said Collins, who added that his knee is still a little “buggy.” “I’m just trying to heal up now, and Jesse (Alexander, linebackers coach) has been just telling me to take it easy.”
Throughout his career, Collins has seen the good with the bad. With the way the Golden Hawks are shaping up through training camp so far, he’s expecting big things.
“A lot of these guys have a lot of skill,” he said.
Laurier is looking to improve upon a mediocre 4-4 year last season, which could have gone much differently if it weren’t for a few near-misses.
Some pieces will change. Kicker Ronnie Pfeffer is vying for a position in the CFL, and with that comes an opportunity for new blood to handle the kicking duties. Sir John A. Macdonald grad Nathan Mesher should get an opportunity with the Hawks.
Under centre, quarterback James Fracas, a Highlander grad, has been getting the majority of looks in training camp, so he should also be on the field on opening day.
After what feels like forever to Collins, the Golden Hawks will start their regular season this Sunday against the York Lions in Toronto. Laurier’s first home game will be against the always-powerful Western Mustangs on Sept. 12.
“I’ve just had that urge to get back out there,” said Collins.