West Charlotte High football coach Mo Collins – a former NFL lineman who dedicated himself to helping young people and turning around the program at the school he once attended – died early Sunday morning.
Collins, 38, who did not coach in Friday’s 35-7 loss to Hough, had been receiving dialysis treatments for kidney failure. He is the second area football coach to die in recent weeks. Union County’s Piedmont High School football coach Ron Massey died two weeks ago of a heart attack.
West Charlotte High Principal John Wall notified school staff Sunday afternoon. School officials plan to have additional guidance counselors at school Monday to talk with students and staff to provide support. Collins’ family has asked for privacy.
Collins was one of 10 new football coaches in Mecklenburg County this fall. Players and school officials said he brought hope and discipline to the school.
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“I know he had a big heart to help kids and really wanted to turn West Charlotte High School around,” said former Carolina Panther and Victory Christian football coach Dee Brown. “I know he was taking great pride in that. Charlotte, West Charlotte High School, the NFL and the entire community has just lost a good man, but I’m sure his legacy will remain in the hearts and lives he touched.”
Charlotte Christian assistant coach Eugene Robinson, who is a radio announcer for the Carolina Panthers, said Collins would be missed. Robinson said Collins played a pivotal role in helping get a new artificial turf field for West Charlotte through a grant from the Panthers.
“He’s a guy that tried to include everybody,” Robinson said. “Mo’s a motivator and a guy that gets things done. ... He’s real passionate and impresses upon you his passion. ... He’s one of those guys when you talk to (him), he’s so lovable because he’s such a big guy. The first thing you think of is a big teddy bear.”
Collins played on a 1993 West Charlotte team that reached the North Carolina 4A championship game. He later enrolled at Florida, where he was a three-year starter and played on a national championship team. In 1998, after his junior season, Collins entered the NFL draft and was selected by Oakland in the first round, No. 23 overall.
He played six seasons with the Raiders, including the 2002 Super Bowl against Tampa Bay. For his NFL career, Collins started in 64 of 71 regular-season games in which he appeared.
For the past several years, Collins kept a close eye on West Charlotte, where he once donated money to build a new weight room. He said he didn’t like where the former powerhouse program was headed.
From 1973 through 2008, West Charlotte had four losing seasons. In those 35 years, West Charlotte reached the 4A state championship game seven times.
From 2008 through 2013, West Charlotte had four losing seasons.
Collins joined the school’s coaching staff just before the 2013 season. He coached offensive linemen. Collins had an up-close view of perhaps the worst season in school history.
The Lions finished 0-11 and were outscored 532-146. Near midseason, Collins said he knew he wanted to be head coach. West Charlotte is 4-5 this season under Collins, the most wins the Lions have had since 2010. West Charlotte is scheduled to play A.L. Brown at home Friday.
“West Charlotte is where it all started,” he said in an interview with the Observer before the season. “You hear how bad it is and what’s happening. All you hear is negative things. I wanted to find out what it was myself. When I got in there, these were still kids and they deserve some positive people to see and be around, especially people their color.
“Me coming back was saying, ‘I care about you.’ I’m not doing it for money or status, by no means. I’m not trying to stay relevant. I have a job to show them what it is to be a man, to have a strong work ethic. Instead of me donating money – and money is always good for a program – but giving these boys this type of attention and male leadership, I think, I hope, will be invaluable to them.” Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.