After his first season in charge of the school’s football and track teams, with football tallying losses like they were war bonds and the track team doing only a bit better, a mentor to Collins told him “we were going in way over our heads.”
The northeast conference was a tough division, but Collins “handled it and stuck with it, and everything came out well,” he said.
In the ‘70s, the football team picked up two straight state championships and enjoyed a 40-game winning streak. At the same time, the track team went through 88 meets before picking up a single mark in the loss column.
Former selectman Jerry Stabile played during both of the football team’s championship years. To him, it felt like a scene out of “Remember the Titans.”
“When we got to football games, during a regular season game, we’d have a caravan of cars, we’d have two buses,” Stabile said. “We’d pull in and have more people coming to their games than the home team would have.”
It was a rallying point for more than just the team, according to Stabile.
Current high school football Coach E.J. Perry recalled being a child in the crowd as the mid ‘70s football teams cemented their legacy in Andover. One of three Perrys who were personally connected to Collins, he often saw the team from the inside as well, he said.
“There’s nothing like being 8 years old, being marched out of the locker room with all the kids getting high fives,” he said. “In the day, they were like rock stars around Andover. You knew who they were.”
“You look back, and you’d like to say, ‘Who are my mentors?’ Who are the people who really had an impact on your life in a positive way?” Stabile said. “I’d say Dick would fit in a short list of a small group of guys, including my father, who had a direct impact on the trajectory on my life and the success I had.”