When it comes to the “Mount Rushmore” of football legends on Long Island, the longtime CW Post/Long Island University coach Bryan Collins certainly makes the list.
Collins, 58, of Sayville suddenly passed away Saturday morning from a cardiac event. With a lifelong dedication to the game, he left a profound impact on many lives.
Collins was getting ready for his third season as an assistant coach at Stony Brook and his first season as Seawolves defensive coordinator. He was promoted from defensive line coach to the DC this January.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve alongside Bryan over the past couple of years,” said Stony Brook head football coach Chuck Priore. “As an opposing coach, he served as a mentor and I have learned a great deal from working with him during our time together at Stony Brook. We certainly lost a great football coach, but more importantly a great person.”
Collins was a legendary head coach at CW Post/LIU for 23 years amassing 162 wins, six NCAA Tournament appearances and eight Northeast 10 Conference Championships. He was a seven-time Northeast 10 Coach of the Year and led CW Post to 16 winning seasons including three undefeated campaigns in 2002, 2016 and 2018.
The Long Island football community is heartbroken, particularly those who were with Collins at CW Post and LIU.
“He was more than just a coach,” said former CW Post wide receiver Jeremiah Pope, now the Girls Track and Field coach at Port Washington High School.
“He was a mentor and father figure who loved all his players. He taught us all how to be strong men, tough players, winners on and off the field, fathers, and to even succeed in our careers now. Anything we needed he made sure he provided because he put his players first.”
That commitment and loyalty from Collins was not just for his players and coaches but also for the entire football staff.
“Bryan Collins is one of the greatest people I have ever met,” said longtime CW Post/LIU Equipment Manager Frank Venturino. “He cared so much about his players and staff. We were all family. We both started at Post in 1991 and instantly became friends.”
Friends and family.
That’s more than just a phrase used for an employee discount. It’s the foundation on how Collins built a culture within the football programs that he oversaw. It speaks to the kind of person that he was. He was more than just a coach to his players. He was, in many ways, like a father figure.
“Coach Collins was the definition of the leader of men,” said Rob Blount, head coach at Oceanside High School and former quarterback at CW Post.
“There are only two people I can consider a second father figure in my life…my high school football coach Lou Andre, and Bryan Collins. Coach Collins helped finalize my mold as a young man. The love I have for that man is endless. He’s a big reason for why I’m where I’m at now and who I am now. I’m going to miss him tremendously.”
Collins played linebacker at St. John’s University and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1987. He began his coaching career in 1991 at Post as an assistant defensive coach/defensive line. From 1994 to 1996, he was defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at the United States Merchant Marine Academy and then returned to Post to be the Pioneer’s defensive coordinator/linebackers.
In 1998, he was elevated to head coach at CW Post.
“I had the privilege to coach Bryan at St. John’s University,” said Roosevelt High School head coach Joe Vito. “He worked extremely hard at his trade. His love for football was very apparent as he always had time for high school coaches. Bryan was noted for his knowledge of the 4-4 defense and he sat with me and many New York coaches and taught us the defense.”
“Coach Collins was more than just coach,” said former CW Post running back and kick returner Ian Smart, who went on to play in the NFL, NFL Europe and CFL.
“He was a father figure to all of us, a friend when you needed to talk and a mentor. His mission wasn’t to create great football players, but also to create great men. He was definitely a true players coach and will be greatly missed.”
Collins left an indelible mark on Long Island football and was highly respected by so many players and coaches, especially those who were in his inner circle. He helped change and improve the lives of so many young men and they will always carry his memory with them going forward.
That includes the player who was his first home visit and recruit shortly after becoming CW Post head coach in 1998.
“I have tears pouring down my face,” said former CW Post Pioneers offensive lineman Jonathan Isopo in a social media post on Sunday.
“Thank you for taking me in and making me part of the family you created. Thank you for guiding me and help mold me into the man, husband, and father I am today. Thank you for teaching and instilling in all of us, the true meaning of hard work and dedication. Thank you for giving me the tools to go out into the real world, and have success. Thank you for being a role model and a mentor! Most importantly, thank you for being you! A tremendous coach, an amazing man, the best Dad, and a loving husband!”
Collins built a very special culture in his football program and instilled a belief in his players that they were part of a family and a football team that was capable of accomplishing a lot.
Players could have left and gone elsewhere, but they bought in to Collins’ motto:
“THOSE WHO STAY WILL BE CHAMPIONS.”
“It was not just about winning football games,” said Pope. “This quote also meant being a champion as a person, your mind, student, role model, making good choices and giving back. This quote has meant so much to me and I still live by it to this day.”
Following the 2018 season, Collins oversaw the transition of the LIU Post football program from Division II to Division I. The Pioneers era had come to an end and following the merger with LIU’s Brooklyn campus. The team became the LIU Sharks. The first season at the Division I level did not go well as the Sharks went 0-10.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic that postponed the 2020 season to the spring of 2021. The football team was without an equipment manager so Collins utilized his lifeline.
He called an old friend and asked for help.
“In January 2021, I get a call from Coach Collins asking me if I would come back,” said Venturino. “I hadn’t been in the business since 2003 and wasn’t sure if I could handle it. After the first day, I got my groove back and I took care of the team.”
On March 7, 2021, the Sharks opened the season with a 24-19 home win over the Bryant University, the first Division I win in school history.
“Coach Collins brought me to the center of the team huddle and presented me with the game ball,” said Venturino. “That’s how much he cared for me and the job I was doing for his boys.”
The Sharks finished that abbreviated season 2-2 and then Collins announced his resignation from LIU.
It was the end of an era for CW Post/LIU and the close of a big chapter that Collins wrote in the book of Long Island football. It didn’t matter if you played or coached with him, played or coached against him, was recruited by him, covered him as a member of the media or just knew him from Long Island football circles.
Bryan Collins was something special.
“His roots are in twined in Long Island and New York City football,” said Blount. “You can’t walk into a high school in southern New York who doesn’t know who Bryan Collins is. He’s done more for New York football in the past 30 years than anyone I know and that’s no disrespect to anyone. He built the (CW Post/LIU) program with Long Island and New York City kids. We were Long Island’s team. He built the program off many guys who were over looked. He built that ‘me against the world mentality’ in us. It was an us versus us mentality. Everything was about us. We controlled our controllables.”
Funeral services for Collins will be held at the funeral home on Thursday from 7-9:30 p.m., and on Friday from 2-4:30 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m.
A funeral mass will take place on Saturday at 9:45 a.m. at St. Lawrence the Martyr Roman Catholic Church in Sayville.
He is survived by his wife, Patti; his children, Tyler and Megan; and his brother, John Collins, who resides in Florida.
Tribute from his daughter Megan
Top: Bryan Collins taking a photo with one of his players at Stony Brook. (Credit: Twitter)