Athlete of the week: Corey Collins, Elk River, baseball: Going strong

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Last fall, Corey Collins was a key figure in the rousing revival of Elk River football, an experience he ranks as his top sports thrill. But his favorite game, the one he’ll continue, is baseball.

Collins, a three-year varsity starter in both baseball and football, alternates between shortstop and center field and is batting around .350 in 2012 counting high school and Legion combined.

Corey Collins is hitting around .350 for 2012 with the high school and Legion teams after quarterbacking the Elks in their 6-3 football season last fall. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

The strong, 5-foot-8, 185-pound athlete was quarterback on the ground-pounding Elk football team that went 6-3 last fall, thrilling a community that had seen just six wins the previous six years.

“It was such a good feeling,” he reflects, “to bring the community back together for football and have the whole town behind us like that.”

But hitting line drives and scooping up slow rollers and making diving catches in the outfield is great fun, too. “I like baseball the best,” said Collins, who’ll try to make the team at Southwest State in Marshall.

Elk River Legion coach Josh Juntunen regards Collins as “a very versatile player who’ll do whatever the team needs.”

The coach likes Collins’ speed and baserunning instincts, his ability make “both flashy and routine plays” in the field, and his discipline at the plate. “Corey has good at-bats. He works the count and fights off pitches, and puts the ball in play.”

Collins had his best prep season as a senior, hitting .333 (20-for-60) with three doubles and six steals. The Elks were 5-1 out of the blocks but finished 10-12. “We started out great, then slowed down,” he said with some disappointment.

But in baseball you get a second chance right away, and the Elks are 16-6 in Legion ball, earning a district tornament berth. Collins, who bats left and throws right, is hitting .380 with 10 RBI and nine steals. Big hits include an RBI single in the 13th inning for a 1-0 winover Delano at a July 4 tournament, and a two-run double in a playoff win over Waite Park, 4-3.

Last summer, Collins hit .290 on Legion and led with 55 assists, after a 10-game stint on the VFW team when he went 14-for-21 (.667).

In football, Collins, who started at free safety during the 0-9 season in 2010, was new coach Steve Hamilton’s choice to run an offense designed to chew up opponents on the ground. His ball-handling skills and shifty, low-center-of-gravity running helped turn the Elks into a high-scoring offense. He rambled for 431 yards on 98 carries (4.4 per carry) and was third in scoring with 48 points (five touchdowns, nine two-point runs) while his season passing totals looked like a decent single-game ledger, 9-for-23, 109 yards, three TD’s, one interception.

His personal highlights: “As a team, definitely the Rogers game,” he said, referring to a 17-14 upset of the neighboring power that beat them 50-0 a year earlier. “And, individually, I’d say the Monticello game at homecoming.” He sparked a 42-34 victory that night, with TD scampers of five and 13 yards and uncorked a game-winning TD pass to Jordan Meyer.

Collins was a three-sport athlete until his senior year. Wrestling was his first sport, kindergarten through 11th grade. He had a 19-15 varsity record as a junior, then dropped the sport, explaining that his heart was no longer in it. But his fall, spring and summer seasons produced plenty of excitement in his last year as an Elk.



Corey Collins

Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents, Dan and Beth; brother, Nathan, 15; sister, Carlie, 12 … Sports: baseball, football, formerly wrestling … Academics: 3.25 GPA … College plans: Southwest State, elementary education, baseball

Favorite stuff — Class: media literature … TV show: “Sports Center” … Movies: “Anchorman” and “The Blind Side” … Music: rap and country, especially Chevelle … Food: porterhouse steak with corn on the cob & mashed potatoes … Drink: Powerade … Reading: Sports Illustrated … Team: New England Patriots … Athletes: Jose Reyes, Tom Brady …  Kickback: hunting, fishing, golf … Would like to visit: Hawaii