Jolin Collins met her husband Mo in Greek Algebra Class at Hawthorne Junior High.
Jolin said she didn’t think Mo liked her, until one day at West Charlotte High he came up from behind and put his arms around her. “I think we should get to know each other better,” Jolin remembers him saying.
“I said, ‘But we don’t even like each other,’” Jolin said. “But he was a slick talker back then. Somehow he talked me into things and next thing you know we’re boyfriend and girlfriend on campus.”
Jolin spoke to the Observer about her husband Thursday, four days after his death. Collins, 38, the first-year football coach at West Charlotte, died Sunday. She said he had been successfully receiving dialysis for kidney failure, and several weeks ago had what they thought was the flu, something he couldn’t get past. . Collins checked himself into a hospital last week and was diagnosed with pneumonia.
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“We thought he had the flu, yes. It wasn’t going on that long,” she said.
Jolin said Mo was a wonderful husband and attentive father. He had a caring heart though he had atough exterior, she said.
Their relationship blossomed, even as Mo went off to the University of Florida during Jolin’s senior year at West Charlotte in 1994-95. Jolin eventually attended N.C. Central in Durham, where she majored in chemistry. She was doing anesthesiology research at the Duke Medical Center in February 2000, when Mo invited her to the Bahamas for vacation. Mo was playing for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders then.
The two were having dinner at the Atlantis Hotel in Nassau when Jolin excused herself to go to the restroom . On the way she passed a photographer who asked to take her picture.
“He said, ‘I’m about to take a picture of a couple about to get engaged,’” Jolin said. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s nice.’ I didn’t think much of it.’”
When she returned to the table, Mo said he’d ordered dessert. Jolin doesn’t eat sweets and wondered why he would do that. Then a singer came over, as did the photographer and the cake.
Written on the cake, in frosting, was: “Will You Marry Me?” After reading, Jolin looked up from the cake, with tears in her eyes, and saw nervous-looking Mo holding open a ring box. He told Jolin, “I had to have it written down because I was too nervous to say it.”
The singer sang. The photographer snapped pictures.
The two were married March 3, 2001.
They have a 9-year-old daughter, Carlin, and a 7-year-old son, Lawson.
“He adored his kids,” Jolin said. “He called them ‘my babies.’ It was always, ‘I love my babies.’ He said that all the time. And we definitely loved each other. We weren’t just married. We actually loved each other. He was my best male friend and I told him everything and ran ideas by him.”
She didn’t want to comment on the cause of Mo’s death.
She said her husband, who played at 325 pounds as an Oakland Raider, “had lost a great deal of weight, over 100 pounds. ...He wanted to get rid of the weight to be healthier. This was a little over a year ago. He did it by swimming, diet and just normal exercise. No magic pill or shortcut. He would swim 50 laps at the University YMCA.”
Jolin said she will move forward but never forget her husband.
“I will be led by God and what he says,” she said. “I will focus on my children and I have a very strong support system in my church and my family and my friends here. God will determine where I go. I just want people to remember Mo as they are doing (now).
“He was a leader, a motivator and when he saw a need, he went out to fill it, and anybody around him knew how much he loved his children, how much he loved me. They know how much he loved football."