Tyrone Collins didn’t let a debilitating injury derail his future in football.
It didn’t hurt having head coach Curt Bradley and teammate Terrell Thomas picking him up when moments of doubt crept in.
The senior defensive back tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in late February, then had surgery in March and began the long road to recovery.
Through it all, Collins underwent a busy summer that saw him rehabbing and studying so he can graduate early and enroll at Missouri after committing to the Tigers in June.
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“I thought my summer (couldn’t have) been harder,” Collins said. “... Coach Bradley gave me motivation, texting me every day just saying, ‘How are you doing in class? Are you focusing in class? Are you doing it each day?’ ”
And as the busiest week in Braden River football history unfolds, Collins is one of many Pirates embracing things.
“I’ve never played three games in a week,” Collins said. “It’s better when Coach Bradley tells us to stay focused. ... We’ve just got to stay focused in practice and keep the momentum up in practice.”
With Hurricane Irma and the early-season monsoon-like weather, Braden River’s schedule turned into quite a jam at the back end.
The Pirates played North Port on Oct. 26, Sarasota Booker this past Monday and are set to face St. Pete High on Friday and play the second half of an early-September postponed game with Clearwater High on Saturday, though the game against Clearwater isn’t a guarantee.
“There’s still some things up in the air on both sides as far as the point system,” Bradley said.
Braden River breezed past North Port and Booker, and a victory Friday against St. Pete High should clinch the No. 5 seed – the highest seed attained for a non-district champion – in the Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs.
To prepare for such a hectic stretch, the Pirates rested their starters through first-half dominance in the past four games. Braden River outscored those four teams (Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, North Port and Booker), 190-42.
“Getting out to early leads there have kind of given us a chance to rest some guys,” Bradley said. “So we’re as healthy as we can be.”
Those leads are due to an explosive offense with quarterback Bryan Gagg, running backs Deshaun Fenwick and Cam White, and aerial threats Knowledge McDaniel, Craivon Koonce and Travis Tobey.
The defense also amped up with Collins’ return for the second half of the season.
During the last portion to his rehab to begin this season, Collins studied film, immersing himself in the life of a coach.
He even shouted tips to the players occupying Braden River’s secondary in his absence – Thomas, Mark Davis, Amari Pitts and Jahvaron Burks.
With that quartet gaining experience as a unit without Collins only improves the Pirates’ defense with Collins back in the lineup as a versatile defensive back.
Bradley has utilized Collins’ vast skill set in a nickelback role or as a cover corner, depending on what opponents like to do.
“He’s kind of an eraser as far as, ‘Hey, what do we need this week,’ ” Bradley said. “... He is extremely diverse and he’ll do the same thing in college next year.”
On Friday, the third game in an nine-day stretch takes place. A win solidifies Braden River’s chances at the fifth seed and a likely first-round playoff trip to South Fort Myers.
It also could end the chance at finishing the game with Clearwater that is scheduled for Saturday.
“We kind of get down to the wire with the Clearwater thing,” Bradley said. “If you have to play a half, you have to play a half. It is what it is.”