When Tony Collins made a stop at the Dundee Central School, where he told his story to a gymnasium filled with Junior and Senior High School students, the crowd heard his now familiar story of rising to NFL heights, but they applauded the 53-year-old former Penn Yan Mustang when he told them his greatest accomplishment was finishing his college education in his 50s.
When Penn Yan and Section V Football Hall of Fame member Tony Collins was in the area last week to share his message with school students of all ages, he made a stop at the Dundee Central School, where he told his story to a gymnasium filled with Junior and Senior High School students.
Collins, who tells stories of being chosen in the second round of the 1981 NFL draft by the New England Patriots, earning the starting running back position and playing in the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, drew applause from the Dundee crowd when he told them his greatest accomplishment — Finishing his college education as a former athlete in his 50s.
The Dundee students heard Collins's now familiar narrative of playing football for the Penn Yan Mustangs, the East Carolina Pirates and the Patriots, and the decisions that led to his struggles with drugs and other poor life choices.
He told them they have the power to make the right choices in their own lives.
"Today is the day that you can start your life, no matter where you are in life or how you think in life, you can make a change. You can make things happen. In order to see a change on the outside, there must first be change on the inside, and I encourage each and every one of you to give it everything you've got," he told them.
"Give it your best, each and every single day because there is a champion down inside. There are so many things inside you that this world needs. I want you to understand that nobody can stop you but yourself — making those good choices and being in the right places at the right times; having character. That's what life is about," he concluded.
After speaking to the general student body, he spent additional time with student athletes to offer advice about college athletics recruitment opportunities.
During three days in the Finger Lakes, Collins spoke at Geneva High School and Middle School and Mynderse Academy in Seneca Falls. He also visited the Keuka Lake School in Penn Yan, the Modeste Bedient Library in Branchport, and the Yates County Jail.
He has established a foundation to raise funds for programs that benefit children. The Tony Collins Class of 1977 Golf Classic and related events, including a football and cheerleading camp with other former professional athletes, will be held July 10 - 14 in and around Penn Yan.
Each year the Golf Classic draws a slate of other NFL stars.
For more information about Collins, the Tony Collins Foundation and the Classic, visit www.tonycollinsfoundation.com
To see videos of his talk in Dundee last week, scroll down this page.