Duke assistant Collins bridges gap of gridiron success
Posted December 5, 2013
Updated December 6, 2013
Durham, N.C. — The Duke football team will work out in Durham Friday before heading to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game against Florida State. And as the Blue Devils reach uncharted waters, there is one person in the program that can best bridge the gap from the past to the present.
Linebackers coach Jim Collins is on the sidelines for Duke this year, just as he was under then-Duke head coach Steve Spurrier in 1989.
“It has been a very rewarding year,” Collins said in a one-on-one interview with WRAL-TV’s Jeff Gravley. “It takes me back to 1989 in so many ways because it has been so similar to that year.”
In 1989, the Blue Devils won seven in a row. Not to be out done, this year’s team has won eight straight as the head to the conference title game.
“This might be a much bigger accomplishment because of the difference in the league,” Collins said.
Similarities between the ’89 and ’13 Blue Devils continue as each played a two-quarterback system and each boasted strong ground games. A key difference however, is at the helm. In 1989, the Blue Devils were led by the up-and-coming Steve Spurrier. This season, the seasoned David Cutcliffe is guiding a Duke team that continues to turn heads,
“They accomplished the same thing, they just did it in different ways,” Collins said of the success each team had in their respective years. “That doesn’t make either one right or either one wrong, they just go about it in their own different way.”
Parallels to the 1989 team continue. Last Saturday the Blue Devils rang the Victory Bell as they walked off the field in Chapel Hill having clinched the ACC Coastal Division. Over two decades ago, Duke marched off the field in Chapel Hill ringing the same bell having clinched a tie for the conference title.
The image of that moment in 1989 that lives in the halls on the Duke campus was taken by Collins’ wife, Geri. Unfortunately, no such image was captured this season. “We didn’t have our photographer,” Collins lamented. Geri Collins lost her two-year battle with cancer a year ago this month.
“David Cutcliffe was just a pillar for me. He was just unbelievable," Jim Collins recalls.
So Collins will now head to Charlotte and the ACC Championship game without his most important player, wife Geri. “I will feel some emptiness because my partner is not with me. But you know, really, she is. She is enjoying this without a doubt.”
Collins followed Spurrier to Florida where he was a part of seven conference title games, winning five. He said that he would like nothing more than to win one more.