By Joel Wass
Jodie Collins faces some big ballers while travelling with Ryerson’s women’s basketball team, but her toughest competition lies in her own backyard.
“My dad shows no mercy,” says the 6-foot-1 forward when discussing her one-on-one basketball battles at home in Lindsay, Ont. with her father Doug, a former professional football player. “He never lets up against us. In one game he pushed my sister Krissy into the garage and ended up breaking her angle.”
Her three sisters and one brother have picked up their share of accidental bumps and bruises in the paint with their 6-foot-4 father, but the youngest Collins says the worst injury she’s ever suffered playing her old man was a “hurt ego.”
“In a game to 11 I’ll let [my kids] get to 10 before I turn it on,” jokes the eldest Collins.
At 57, Collins’ dominance on the court is surprising. However, his competitive nature is hardly shocking considering he’s a former all-star offensive and defensive tackle for the now defunct Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League.
“All my guy friends think it is the weirdest thing that he used to play in the CFL. It’s kind of funny for me though, because I know all his stories and all the history, but I was never really there while he was playing,” says the second-year Ram. She was born seven years after her father retired from the gridiron.
Collins says she’s always been proud of her father, but never fully appreciated the size of his football fame until she attended his induction into the Windsor and Essex Hall of Fame four years ago.
“I had a name tag with my name on it and everybody was like: ‘Collins! Wow!’” says the Ryerson Ram. “It was cool because all these people were telling stories and I felt like my dad was the man.”
Collins’ father was more than a man, he was a champion. Led by legendary CFL quarterback Russ Jackson, Collins won the Grey Cup three times during his term in the nation’s capital.
His CFL paycheques may have been low, but Collins’ championship runs came at a high price. From 1968 to 1975 he had five knee operations.
“I should have new knees, but I’m holding out for a new body,” laughs Collins. The ability to find humour during adversity is a quality both father and daughter share.
“Jodie always lifts the spirit of the team whenever we’re feeling down,” says Rams captain Taeka Grizzle. “Off the court she definitely takes on a leadership role on our team.”
Although she does not see the court as much as other Rams, Collins says she thrives in her role as the squad’s unofficial motivational speaker. Prior to last Saturday’s showdown against the University of Toronto, Collins took it upon herself to rev-up first-year teammate Stephanie Nelson.
“I made her yell in my face that she was the fastest girl out there,” says Collins. “[The motivation] sounds funny, but I think it really helped her. I know it did.”
Collins’ father also tackled the position of athletic motivator while teaching at I. E. Weldon Secondary School as the football and basketball coach.
The former University of Cincinnati Bearcat even kept sports teams running while his fellow teachers protested against the Ontario Government refusing to provide any extra-curricular activities.
“I don’t agree with work to rule, it screws the kids. I’m still a kid. Don’t screw me,” says Collins, a 280-pound adolescent during his playing days.
Collins has always had a love for sport, but never forced his children into athletics when they were growing up.
“My dad told me if [a sport] wasn’t fun anymore to not play,” says the radio and television arts student. “He definitely always wanted me to work hard when I was playing, but he never told me that I had to play.”
The former CFLer says he’d have never thrown on the pads if he didn’t enjoy football. He says success in sports should be measured in memories rather than victories.
“At my age now it doesn’t really matter how good you were, what’s really important are all the stories,” says the retired special education teacher. “When you play with the same group of players for a long time you come up with some pretty funny stories.”
Although the Windsor native is no longer a huge football follower, Collins does spend a huge amount of time watching the current generation of Collins in action.
“The greatest thing is to watch [my kids] play,” says Collins. “But I also love to play [with] them. At Christmas time we still get together and go to the gym and shoot around.” Luckily for his kids, Christmas was the only break at the Collins household over the holidays.