Mo Collins was laid to rest Saturday afternoon following an emotional funeral service at Friendship Baptist Church, where friends and family remembered a man devoted to the Charlotte community and his high school.
Collins, West Charlotte High’s football coach and a former NFL lineman, died suddenly at age 38 last Sunday morning. He had been receiving dialysis treatment and for weeks thought he had the flu. Collins died last weekend after it was discovered he had pneumonia.
Saturday’s ceremony began with a viewing from 10 a.m. until services began at noon. In attendance were many friends and past teammates.
The line to pay respects to Collins’ family – passing a framed photo of Coach Mo signed by friends and members of the Lions’ football team – stretched at least 100 people deep from 11 a.m. until the funeral started.
Speakers included representatives of the University of Florida, where Collins was a three-year starter and a member of a national championship team, and the Oakland Raiders, who drafted the former West Charlotte High All-American 23rd overall in 1998 NFL draft.
Lincoln Kennedy, who played on the same offensive line as Collins with the Raiders from 1998 to 2003, recalled stories from his time spent with Collins, who he’d nicknamed Pup.
Kennedy lightened the mood with humorous anecdotes about what a practical joker Collins was, recalling his friend’s tendency to steal his peanut M&M’s and secretly turn the locker room shower on cold when he dared to stop paying attention.
Kennedy, who arrived in Charlotte for the services Friday night, joked that even though Collins has passed on, he’s still playing practical jokes on him.
“I got here from the desert last night and took a walk in the city without my jacket thinking it was a nice night. Sure enough, it started to pour and there I was caught with no coat. I looked up and said, ‘You got me again!’ ”
At one point, Kennedy paused and looked over to West Charlotte’s football players, who were seated and wearing their jerseys.
“I remember when Mo called me to tell me he got the West Charlotte coaching job,” Kennedy said. “I was like, ‘Oh no, do those administrators know who they just empowered?’ He was so proud.”
Finishing his remarks, Kennedy had a message for the players: “Young men, remember what Mo Collins taught you.”
Friday evening, West Charlotte paid tribute to Collins with a halftime ceremony. Players placed “Mo” stickers on their helmets and fans did the iconic Florida gator chomp.
At 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, Collins could be an intimidating figure, but with each story that was told Saturday, a picture of someone who truly cared about his community grew clearer.
Collins’ sister, Dawn, delivered what was the most emotional remembrance of the rainy afternoon.
She joked about her brother’s influence over her when they were young and how he’d secretly make her eat his vegetables when their parents were looking away from the dinner table.
Mo, she said, was her very best friend and never once wasn’t there for her when she needed him.
The Rev. Michael A. Glenn, pastor of Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Belmont, gave Collins’ final eulogy. He thanked everyone in attendance for their support of Collins’ wife Jolin, their two children – Carlin and Lawson – and the rest of the family.
Glenn cited a quote Collins gave to the Observer after accepting the West Charlotte coaching position in February.
“Me coming back was saying, ‘I care about you.’ ’’ Collins said. “I’m not doing it for the 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.”
“Mo Collins cared!” Glenn said, “Do you? Anyone can write a check. Caring is being willing to make a positive impact on the lives of others.”
Glenn then looked over at the Lions – who were honorary pallbearers – and said that in time, the seeds Collins planted in them will grow and they will go on after football to do great things.