For the three years from 1974 through 1976, Tony Collins scored a lot of touchdowns for the Penn Yan Mustangs — 28 in fact.
For many Penn Yan Mustang football fans this was a common scene: Penn Yan’s number 43 darting down the field and barreling into the end zone.
The sounds of the Orange and Blue Marching Band breaking into the refrain of the “Mustang School Fight Song” as the P.A. announcer echoed the good news, “PENN YAN TOUCHDOWN SCORED BY TONY COLLINS!”
The overflow crowd at the Liberty Street Field would go crazy and the cheers could be heard all over the valley. This was part of a decade and a half that was arguably the most successful in the school’s long football history.
This was the time frame that produced an undefeated New York State Championship team in 1976 and a string of Section V titles. This was the best of times for a whole generation of Mustang football fans and for that matter, the entire town. Saturday afternoons in the autumn were Football Saturdays in Penn Yan.
Of course, for Tony Collins, this was just the first chapter in an impressive football career.
He went on to star at East Carolina University after graduating from PYA.
His stellar play in college earned the attention of the pro football scouts. Tony was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round in 1981.
He was an instant success with the Patriots and had a string of very good seasons. In 1983 Tony was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl. Collins also was a member of the Patriots team that played in Super Bowl XX.
It was quite an accomplishment for a youngster from a small town in Upstate New York. Tony’s hard work made him one of the top running backs in the National Football League in the 1980’s. He had a 1,000 yard rushing season, piled up considerable yardage as a pass receiver, and returned kickoffs during those productive seasons.
He still holds the single game Patriot rushing record of 212 yards. After some glorious years in New England, Tony finished his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins.
And now 33 years later, Tony is scoring another touchdown for his hometown in a somewhat different, but more important way. He is helping to raise money for some community organizations.
On Sunday, Aug.17, Tony is hosting the “Class of ‘77 Celebrity Golf Classic” in Penn Yan with the proceeds going to the Penn Yan Junior Mustang Youth Football Program and Keuka Comfort Care Home. This by far is the biggest touchdown Tony Collins will score for the Penn Yan community.
The “Class of ‘77 Celebrity Golf Classic” will be Tony’s way of giving something back to his hometown.
Page 2 of 3 - He is truly appreciative of the years of support the Penn Yan fans have given him over his years of playing football.
Many remember how proud the community was when his name and hometown was announced during his pro football career and especially Super Bowl XX. The Super Bowl Party at the Red Rooster was one that went down in party history for those of us that can still remember.
Joining Tony for this golf classic will be several of his former New England Patriot teammates including Steve Grogan, Stanley Morgan, Irving Fryar, Mosi Tatupu, Ronnie Lippett and Reggie Branch.
There has not been such a collection of sport stars gathered in Penn Yan since the days of St. Michael’s Sports Night.
A social event will be held at the Penn Yan Moose Club the night before the tournament so the community will be able to meet and talk with this impressive collection of football talent. Tony also anticipates some of his 1977 PYA classmates, including some members of the championship 1976 Mustang team, will be on hand.
This two day celebration is being coordinated by Pam Griffith, a 1977 classmate of Tony’s.
The golf tournament will be held at the Lakeside Country Club on State Route 54 and will be a scramble format. A dinner will follow for the participants. The tournament will be limited to 25 teams and the spots have gone very fast.
Registration forms are available online at www.fingerlakesdailynews.com or at several business locations in the village including The Wagner Restaurant on East Elm Street, Cam’s N.Y. Pizzeria on Main Street, and the Best Western Vineyard Inn and Suites on Brown Street.
The fundraising efforts will also include some raffles and an auction. Some sponsorships are still available for these activities. Contact Griffith for more information about these opportunities.
It should be an exciting two days for local sports fans and the true winners will be the Junior Mustang Youth Football Program and Keuka Comfort Care. Tony Collins has sponsored other events like this in North Carolina that have been extremely successful.
In a few related notes, the 1976 Mustang gridiron team and the decade or so after was arguably the most successful in Penn Yan’s storied football history. The team went undefeated that year, matching the 1944 and 1948 Penn Yan teams. The football talent on that 1976 team was outstanding.
Collins was the first Mustang player to ever play in a National Football League game. His 1976 teammate Chris Crissy matched this feat shortly after. Collins was the first PYA player to be elected to the Section V Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Crissy was elected in 2000 and their head coach during those powerhouse years, Tom Noteware, was inducted in 2002.
Page 3 of 3 - Three of the top 10 scorers in Mustang football history were on that team.
Beside Collins with his 28 touchdowns, Crissy and Tom Walker are also ranked in the top 10. Quite a scoring machine.
Of course, Penn Yan football records are all in the family for Tony. His brother Morris holds the all-time school record with 36 touchdowns from 1967 through 1970 and another brother, Lee, scored 16 touchdowns for Penn Yan from 1966 - 1969.
A True Voice of Experience
One other note of interest about this upcoming weekend in August. The Penn Yan Junior Mustang program will benefit greatly from Tony Collins’ efforts.
The Junior Mustang program recently replaced the Yates County Junior Football program. The Y.C.J.F.L. provided an organized program of football and cheerleading for area youngsters for almost 40 years and was the original feeder program for the successful high school football teams.
The Junior Mustang program looks to continue this tradition. Collins was an original member of the Yates County Junior Football program in 1971. He played for the Mohicans in 1971 and 1972 before skyrocketing to bigger football stages.
Tony currently works for the National Collegiate Scouting Association as an educational speaker and advisor for collegiate sport recruitment.
He recently formed the Tony Collins Foundation to help kids at risk. He is a teacher for youngsters looking to go on to the collegiate ranks and beyond using sports as a vehicle to succeed.
Collins knows the ins and outs of this world. He has experienced the good times and successes but also knows about the down times and failures.
Tony has experienced first hand the pressures of competing in this ultra tough world. He has performed on the biggest stages imaginable for a football player — The Super Bowl, but also knows how the pressure can bring you down if you are not prepared.
Tony has dedicated his life to helping the next generation be prepared. Collins has developed a deep appreciation for the advantages athletics and academics can provide. His goal is to spread that message to families around the country.
This August he will bring this important message to Penn Yan.
Tony can speak from practical family experience. He is the father of nine. His oldest son recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. He was a three year starter at fullback for the Panthers and hopes to nail down a spot on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tony’s message will resonate clearly next month. He is delivering on his promise to bring something back to his hometown.
If you listen carefully on Aug. 17, you will hear the sound “Touchdown Tony Collins” once again echoing over the valley we call Penn Yan.