The Port Jefferson Royals’ outgoing quarterback is officially royalty.
Jack Collins is the first Port Jefferson football player to be named MVP of Division IV. But if he had his way when he was young, the Royals senior wouldn’t even be a quarterback.
“I was a wide receiver,” he said, explaining how he played the position for almost two years before being told the middle school team was in need of a field general. “We had a little contest, and I ended up getting the job.”
Collins didn’t want to be a quarterback because being the center of attention seemed like too much for him. He said he was quiet and reserved by nature, qualities not normally associated with successful quarterbacks. But as the years passed he grew to love it, and others respected the way he played the position, too.
In his senior season, Collins broke school records for touchdowns (18), completions (143) and yards in a season (2,261). Being the first Division IV MVP from the Royals squad, which is voted on by division coaches, also qualifies him for the Hansen Award, which goes to the most outstanding high school football player in Suffolk County, and the Boomer Award, which is awarded to the top quarterback in the county. The winners will be announced at a Section XI dinner Dec. 4 at the Hyatt Regency Long Island in Hauppauge.
“We knew Jack had all the capabilities to handle the physical part of the position,” Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said. “What stood out even more was his maturity mentally. We knew he could handle anything we threw at him, and his work ethic early on was just one of those un-coachable things.”
Collins was called up to the varsity team his sophomore year and played in a handful of games toward the end of the season before being named the starter as a junior. He said the honor was unexpected, but felt encouraged after being recognized.
“I worked hard in the offseason — put my heart and soul into it — and getting called up made me feel more comfortable and prepared to be the leader of a team,” he said. “I think my coach made the right decision. It was a good learning experience.”
Cosci said the coaches immediately began tailoring routines and strategies so that the offense revolved around Collins. The quarterback had worked with an outside coach to enhance his accuracy, power and consistency, but also learned about leadership. The changes were noticed immediately.
“Jack is like no other quarterback I’ve played with,” senior wide receiver Marquis Feldman said. “He knows everything that’s happening on the field before it happens. It’s honestly like playing with a college quarterback.”
The senior’s head coach went one step further in his praise of Collins.
“He watches tons of film, tries to understand things better and fully, he never rests on his laurels — he thinks about what he has to do to get better and he continues to get better because of that,” Cosci said. “As a true leader and a true great player does, he made everyone around him better.”
Marquis said he saw his teammate develop on the field firsthand.
“Everyone on my team gave 110 percent every snap of every game — we were relentless,” he said, adding that he only just moved to the district in August. “To see Jack get recognized for his efforts is phenomenal, because we all knew he was an MVP. I couldn’t be more proud to call him my quarterback and already a very close friend on and off the field.”
To Collins, success is not about him, but more a reflection on his coaches and teammates, he said.
“At first, I didn’t see the good in it as much as I was afraid of the bad,” he said of taking on the quarterback role. “My teammates made me see it’s not that bad. It’s awesome to see the other coaches respected what we were doing, but honestly, we’re all putting in the work together and our coaches are putting game plans out that work. I’m the one that gets a lot of the credit for it, but it was definitely a team effort.”
Collins’ successes have also served to shine a light on the program.
“You can always look at the bigger schools and shake your finger and say ‘We’re too small, we’re never going to win anything,’” Collins said. “But we’re proving everyone wrong. We played with the big boys and it was a really good time. I just really hope this helps the program grow.”
While the extra attention could add pressure for any high school student, Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said nothing ever seemed to phase Collins.
“I’ve watched Jack from afar for two years now — on the field, in the hallways — and for as great of a football player he is, he’s an even better person,” Turner said. “He doesn’t say much, but his work ethic and the way he carries himself speaks volumes as to the type of person Jack is.”
Another important aspect of being a varsity football player is having young kids on the sidelines at games, according to Collins. They reminded him of himself when he first watched the Royals, wishing to one day emulate what he saw.
“I wanted to be like them in every single way,” he said. “I hope when the kids look at me they think that and that I set a good example.”
It’s a mentality he has already instilled in all facets of the program, according to Cosci.
“Jack has been the cornerstone for us in taking the next step,” he said. “He’s definitely more of a lead by example, but when Jack opens his mouth everyone listens. He never really talks about himself, he’s grounded, and it’s refreshing. The first thing out of other coaches’ mouths was ‘What a quarterback you have.’”