Norwalk’s Collins going American
By MATTHEW DORAN
Hour Staff Writer
Soccer has always been the first love of Tyler Collins. And rightly so. Collins has been playing the game since he was 4 years old, and has always made it look painfully easy with his great athleticism and natural ability.
However, there was a time when the Norwalk High School senior thought about switching gears. With a father that played football on a full athletic scholarship at the University of Indianapolis, it certainly made sense to at least give it a try.
“I was really close my freshman year coming to high school,” Collins said. “I had my football cleats and everything. I was ready to play football.”
But Collins eventually went back where he belonged. Back to the soccer field.
“That ended up being a good decision,” said Chris Laughton, the head coach of the Norwalk High boys soccer team.
Collins ended up starting at sweeper for four years, a 6-foot-180-pound stalwart who served as the team’s co-captain this past fall. With power, speed and great instincts for the game, Collins was named First-Team All-FCIAC for the second straight season while leading the Bears to a 7-7-5 overall record.
On Monday, Collins parlayed his high school success into a partial athletic scholarship to play Division I soccer at American University of Washington, D.C.
Collins signed his national letter of intent during a press conference at Norwalk High School with his mother, Kathy, father, Tom, and Laughton at his side.
“I’ve always wanted to play soccer in college since the time I was little,” Collins said. “It’s nice to get a scholarship and have a chance to get a good education at the same time.”
Collins was also considering Bryant and Lafayette, but went with the more established program at American, which went 9-7-3 overall with an appearance in the Patriot League championship game last fall. American, ranked 48th in the nation, won the conference title two years ago.
“It’s a great school academically and it’s a great soccer program, so I think it’s a perfect fit for him,” Laughton said. ” He’s gotten a great education here and he’s been challenged in the FCIAC, and that’s all led to his decision to attend American.”
Collins, who made his official visit last March, also chose American because of its location in the nation’s capital. The stature of the soccer team on campus also played a major role.
“It’s pretty cool. There’s a lot going on down there,” Collins said. “They don’t have a football team, so soccer is the big thing in the fall.”
Collins is a member of the JBS premier team out of South Salem, N.Y., the ninth-ranked U-18 team in the country. The exposure he got with JBS helped land him a scholarship. American first saw Collins play during a college showcase in Richmond, Va., in the spring of his junior year. American head coach Todd West contacted Collins after watching him that summer during an Adidas Blue Chip camp in Cincinnati. Collins liked everything West said and made a verbal commitment last July.
West told Collins he’d give him every chance to win a spot in the starting lineup this fall.
“He just wants to win, so he’s going to put the best players out there,” said Collins, who still had scholarship offers coming in after his commitment to American. “He said there’s a good chance I could start as a freshman. I went to one of the games and he showed me the kid I would be replacing.”
Collins has played sweeper at Norwalk for four years, but his role during the spring and summer premier seasons has been as a midfielder. That versatility made Collins an attractive recruit.
“He’s an athlete, so he’s got a lot of options,” Laughton said. “He’s not going to be pigeon-holed into playing one position. He’s got a lot of versatility. I could have used him anywhere this year and he would have done well. In college, who knows where he’ll play.” Collins has tried everything from baseball to basketball to football. His father played both football and basketball in college, so it was only natural for Tyler to try his hand at a few different sports. He even played lacrosse as a freshman at Norwalk High. But Collins always took to soccer like a fish to water. That’s where he always stood out from the crowd. Tyler’s sister, Karolyn, was an All-FCIAC sweeper as a sophomore with Norwalk’s girls soccer team. Soccer is simply in the family genes. “You can’t teach a lot of the things he has,” Laughton said. “He has great instincts and great technical skills as well.”
According to Laughton, the sky’s the limit with Collins. “From the time I first saw him as a freshman to his senior year, he’s made tremendous strides,” Laughton said. “I really believe he’s only scratching the surface with his ability. If he continues to work hard and stay focused and improve year after year, I know he can be successful on the college level.”
American also plays the same brand of soccer as Norwalk, so Collins should be comfortable right away. “We play a possession style of game and he knows that type of system,” Laughton said. “It’s not going to be a big shock for him.” Collins is one of eight new recruits by American and the first Division I signee for Laughton in his four years as head coach. Five others have gone on the play on lower-level college programs. Laughton believes Collins is only the first in what should be a string of Norwalk players going to the next level in the years to come. ” I think this shows that the program his going in the right direction,” Laughton said. “I think Tyler is going to be the beginning of some great things to come.”
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