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Collins resigns as SEB head football coach
SEB FOOTBALL 102315 540
Pat Collins, center, calls a play during an Oct. 23, 2015 victory over Jenkins in Brooklet. Collins has resigned as head coach of the Yellow Jackets.

    Two weeks ago Pat Collins was running the first spring practice for Southeast Bulloch — everything was business as usual in Brooklet.
     Collins was set to enter his eighth season as head coach, by far the longest tenure he had served between the four stops he’s had in 20 years as a head coach.
     When you take the two years he served as head coach in 1995 and 1996, 2017 would have made Collins the longest serving head coach in the program’s 52-year history. But the morning of SEB’s spring game against Portal on May 19, Collins was in the office of SEB principal Donna Clifton to let her know that wouldn’t be the case this fall.
     “He came in and told me he was seriously thinking about retiring and he’d take the weekend to think it over with his family,” Clifton said. “Then Monday he said he’d be retiring from what I believe to be Bulloch County and public education.”
    Monday it had been reported to the Herald through multiple sources that Collins had announced to the team and all the current assistants he would not return for the 2017 football season. By all accounts this came without warning, leaving SEB administrators, coaches and students stunned.
     “It was surprising to me for sure,” said Brandon Peterson, who serves as SEB’s head baseball coach and an assistant on Collins staff. “I don’t think anyone was expecting this.”
     “It was very shocking, we’ve lost two coaches now and it almost feels like they’re giving up on us,” said Jontrell Wells, a rising junior and 2016 all-region selection for SEB’s football team. “But I understand they have to do what’s best for them and their family.”
     Collins himself will readily admit the timeline for these events are strange. But according to the now former Yellow Jacket head coach, he is able to retire at this point in his career and there were opportunities presented to Collins that would allow him retire under better circumstances.
     Collins added he could not discuss the details of these quote “opportunities” which pulled him away from Brooklet. Whatever that opportunity is, Collins made it a point to emphasize his family was the the biggest factor in his decision to move on.
     “This was a family decision first and foremost,” Collins said. “I would like to think anyone who makes a decision like this would take their family into consideration. But things presented themselves very recently and we decided this is what was best.”
     Collins took over the SEB program when it was in shambles. The Yellow Jackets had lost 19 games in a row going into the 2010 season and had not been to the playoffs since 2003. Collins implemented the same weight program and regiment he had used to take Portal and Screven County to the playoffs to breathe some life back in Brooklet.
     After eating some rough years from 2010-2012 where SEB only won seven games combined, Collins would help guide the team to three playoff appearances in the last four seasons for a combined record of 24-17-1. The football played from 2013-2016 was the best four year stretch for SEB since the Ron Flott-led 2000-2003 squads.
     In addition to bringing the football program back from the dead, Collins brought in a weight room culture that would lead the Yellow Jackets to win two GACA weightlifting titles. Under Collins’ tenure SEB consistently had some of the bigger and stronger offensive lines in their region, allowing them to run the single wing-t offense to success.
     “Whoever takes over this program is not walking into a broken situation,” Collins said. “There’s a good team here. My sincerest hope for those boys is they can accomplish the goals we weren’t able to complete last season.”
     Which adds to why the timeline for Collins’ departure is so awkward. Collins was in line to take over as athletic director for Jack Webb, who will retire on June 30. On top of Webb, Clifton herself will be retiring this school year as well — and with two of the key figures in the hiring process of a new head coach on the way out, the window to get another figure in Collins’ spot is not of an ideal size.
     Contrary to the present situation, Clifton was quick to point out this process will not be rushed. She plans on meeting with incoming principal Stephen Hoyle and other higher ups to try and throw together a plan for hiring the next coach. But as of this edition of the Herald it’s too early in the process to discernibly know any real details of a plan according to Clifton.
     “This decision will not be made hastily just so we can get a name out there,” Clifton said. “We will be sure to let everyone know when all the vacancies have been filled, whether it be athletic director or head football coach.” 
     As for the current state of the program, the offseason regimen will be upkept by the current assistants like Peterson and Jonathan Graham until a new hire is made. Collins said he has the utmost confidence in the men he brought on to continue his offseason program even as he’s left.
     But above all Collins had one message: that he was grateful for every opportunity to coach in Brooklet and that he had poured everything he personally had into the program. He wishes all of the boys and coaches in the program well and doesn’t believe there to be any resentment left behind.
     “I’m pulling for these kids to do well not just on the field but in life as well,” Collins said. “I done everything I can to serve this school. This has been a challenging day for everyone involved.”
     As previously mentioned, there is no timetable for a new head football coach. The Herald will provide further details as the story develops.