One final moment: Aidan Collins and James Wagner to share final game together at All-State match
For recent Summit High School graduate Aidan Collins and head football coach James Wagner, the duo never got their final moment on the football field.
The Summit Tigers football team battled hard throughout the entire 2021 fall season, closing out the regular season with three consecutive wins to finish with a 7-3 record.
In Summit’s last regular season game against Steamboat Springs on Nov. 5, the Tigers dominated the Sailors, defeating the team, 55-27.
Collins also dominated against Steamboat Springs, combining for 81 yards rushing with two touchdowns and 75 yards receiving off of six receptions.
Collins and Wagner stepped off the field that night in Steamboat Springs expecting another game together in the playoffs, but a few days later the team found out it had narrowly missed the 4A state football playoffs.
“It was a strange thing for us,” Wagner said. “We didn’t know if we were done or not when we were on the field at Steamboat for the last game because we were waiting on the playoff bid. I didn’t get that opportunity to share that moment on the field together with the seniors.”
A few weeks after the conclusion of the football season though, Collins found out he had been invited to Colorado High School Coaches Association All-State Games for his exemplary performance over the course of his senior season. He recorded 924 receiving yards, 579 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns this past season.
“It’s a huge honor,” Wagner said. “It’s a big opportunity to be competing with some of the best in the state. In order to be invited, you have to be an all-state player which Aidan was.”
“I am so excited to go,” Collins said. “I was so honored to be invited to the game. I think in Summit only two people in the last 10 years have gone, so it’s just really exciting. I am grateful to be able to go, and it’s going to be a blast to play with some of the best players in Colorado.”
Shortly after Collins was invited to the All-State Games, Wagner was also invited as a coach for his success while coaching during the fall season. Wagner was named the coach of the South team, the same team Collins also happens to be on.
“With everything Aidan and I have done together with this program, it is going to be really cool to share one last moment together on the field,” Wagner said.
Like Wagner, the moment means a lot to Collins. He feels Wagner has helped shape him into the football player and individual he is today. Wagner has been the coach of the Tigers since Collins’ sophomore year, and since then Wagner has steadily improved the program.
“The program has improved so much,” Collins said of Wagner’s leadership. “I can’t even describe it.”
Collins explained that when Wagner first began coaching the Tigers, the turnout for offseason practice was low. Wagner recounts walking into his first summer football workout consisting of only two players. Among the duo was Jake Boyle and Collins, who Wagner said was on a mission with him to build a successful program.
With the help of players like Collins, Wagner has used his commitment and drive to help secure offseason workout turnouts of close to 50 players.
“What I’ve learned from Wagner is that you are going to get better in the offseason, and that is how you are going to become a better player,” Collins said. “That’s what he has instilled in me — is that the only way to get better is to work your butt off. He’s pushing me all offseason and then helping me show out in season.”
For Wagner ,watching Collins grow as a young sophomore to now an adult about to head to college has been something special.
“He’s a unique player but what makes him a unique player is his hard work, determination and focus,” Wagner said. “Everything he did this past year he worked for it.”
Collins and Wagner will head to Pueblo on Tuesday, June 7, in order to start practicing with the South team which is made up of players from across the state in preparation for the All-State Game.
“To be able to celebrate and go out like this, it just means a lot to me,” Wagner said. “To see the person and character Aidan is now is probably one of the things I am most proud of. We’ve developed a friendship that is genuine and real over these last three years.”
Collins and Wagner will get their final moment together as athlete and coach in the all-state football game on Friday, June 10, at Colorado State University – Pueblo before Collins heads to the University of Colorado in the fall. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
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