Legendary coach turns 104

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Samuel ‘Rip’ Collins talks about longevity, storied career

Coach Collins
Coach Samuel “Rip” Collins and his wife, Ollye, have been married since 1942.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

On Dec. 14, Coach Samuel James “Rip’’ Collins turned 104 years old. 

Two celebrations were held in his honor this month – a small party at home by his family and one by his longtime church, Allen Chapel A.M.E. in Daytona Beach. 

“I’m just faithful and grateful,’’ he told the Daytona Times last week, just days before a surgery. According to his family, he is recuperating well at home. 

The secret to his longevity is simple. 

“I’ve always been a coach and teacher. I am used to being active and doing a lot. I have been able to keep my weight down. I never drank or smoked,’’ he related. 

City honor too 

Coach Collins was honored during a Dec. 22 worship service at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church for his dedication and service to the church, as well as a celebration of his 104th birthday. 

The City of Daytona Beach also honored him with a proclamation, which was read at the church service by Zone 3 Commissioner Quanita May. 

The coach couldn’t attend, but his daughter, Sonya Frazier, was there on his behalf. She received a city pin in his honor and the proclamation. 

Coach Collins said he was “extremely honored and quite moved’’ by the recognition. 

Honored by Dr. Bethune 

He was born in Quincy in 1915, and was educated in the Gadsden County school system. 

A football college scholarship brought him to Daytona Beach, where he attended Bethune-Cookman College (now University). 

“I was in the last class where Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was president; she signed my diploma. That’s history. That’s an honor. That was in 1947 when I graduated,” Coach Collins recalled. 

Hall of Fame inductee 

Coach Collins married his college sweetheart, Ollye Eichelberger, in March 1942.  The couple remains married 77 years later. They had three children, Samuel III (deceased), Thaddeus and Sonya. 

He had successful coaching careers in Volusia and Walton counties, where he coached football, basketball and baseball. He has been inducted into the Florida Football Coaches Hall of Fame. 

He called it quite an honor to be one of the first Black coaches selected to the Hall of Fame. 

Pioneer coach and teacher 

Coach Collins was the first head football coach at Campbell Junior High and an assistant football coach at Campbell Senior High. He started the football program at Tivoli High in DeFuniak, Springs, a city about 68 miles from Pensacola. 

He also was a history teacher and one of two teachers selected to integrate schools in Volusia County. 

Collins integrated schools by teaching at Mainland High, which was originally an all-White school. Today the school is mostly African-American.  

“At Mainland High, they weren’t the football power they are now…. At the time, they didn’t consider me for the football coach. They gave me tennis. A sport I never did. I learned tennis and became a tennis player. That was funny,” he recalled. 

Throughout his career, he has helped countless athletes who knew if they desired to attend college, “Coach Rip’’ would secure a scholarship. 

Taught Sunday School 

Coach Collins is a member of the Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, where he taught Sunday School for numerous years. He actually taught Sunday School up until age 102. 

He is a longtime member of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) denomination.  His mother and father both had brothers who served as A.M.E. bishops.

“I come from a religious family. That is what has helped me and fueled me to be successful. The Christian faith and values were bestowed into me early.” 

Coach Collins has received numerous awards and is a member or past member of numeral professional, social and civic organizations. He is a lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

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