Former Stinger Brad Collinson Changing Culture as New Football Coach

Collinson Makes His Return to Concordia as Head Coach

Collinson’s first game as head coach pits him against his old team, the Laval rouge et Or. Photo Elisa Barbier.

After just one practice with the team, it had already become clear that Brad Collinson has a clear vision for this program—excellence.

In late May 2018, when it was announced that head football coach Patrick Donovan was departing without having coached a single game in his new position, the future of Concordia’s football program seemed uncertain.

“At first, I was really worried,” said American quarterback Adam Vance. “I was back home when [Patrick Donovan resigned] and a couple kids called me asking what was going on and I didn’t even know what was going on.”

Now, with newly appointed head coach Brad Collinson at the helm, it is becoming clear that there is no longer cause for concern.

Watching him on the first day of training camp, it was apparent that Collinson runs a tight ship. His drills were precise and detailed, right to the cool-down.

“This is how we’ll cool down after every practice,” he shouted. “Helmets to your right, helmets to your right.” Not a single helmet was out of place.

“He’s very engaged with the players,” said Stingers Athletic Director D’Arcy Ryan, who hired Collinson to take over the program back in June. “I’ve only had the chance to watch for about 15 minutes so far, but I can tell he’s organized and in control. He has a vision, he knows what he wants, and his expectations for his players are high.”

He expects his players to cool down the same way following each practice. They jump into the cool-down circle where they’re called on to show off their best dance moves. Yes, that’s right: Collinson’s cool-down circle doubles as a dance circle.

Collinson, who found himself replacing Donovan almost as suddenly as the ex-head coach had departed, knows this school like the back of his hand and began his coaching career right here with the Stingers.

In 2000, the now 39 year-old coach got his start at Concordia as a player, where he played until 2002. In 2003, he moved on to play with Montreal’s Canadian Football League team, the Alouettes, returning to Concordia to finish his degree in 2004 when the Alouettes released him.

With his return came the offer of a part-time assistant coaching job by then-head coach Gerry McGrath. From there on, he stuck with coaching, feeling it to be a good fit with his Leisure Studies degree.

Having been a coach, player, and student at Concordia in the past, Collinson’s hiring is a sweet homecoming. Photo Elisa Barbier.

Returning to Concordia once more, Collinson has a wealth of coaching and recruiting experience under his belt that will help him steer the Stingers in a new direction, including seven years with the nine-time Vanier Cup winning Laval Rouge et Or.

“I’ve been preparing for this moment for a couple years now, so obviously I’ve had a lot to learn throughout the stages,” said Collinson. “Now I’m 39 and my goal has always been to be a head coach before I was 40 and now I’ve kind of accomplished that.”

“I think he’s going to bring a great energy to this team,” said former head coach, Mickey Donovan. “He spent a lot of time working on offence at Laval, and this O-line group is going into its fourth year. It’s probably the largest number of fourth and fifth year offensive linemen since my brother and I took over the program, and I think they’re in good hands.”

“I’ve been saying this since I’ve been here and I believe it: Concordia University is an elite football program. We have to hold ourselves to an elite standard.” — Brad Collinson

While it might be easy to assume Collinson’s strategy will be to model that of the ever-successful Rouge et Or, this definitely isn’t the case.

“I know what Concordia is and what it isn’t,” said Collinson. “It’s definitely not Laval, and I understand that, but there are things that you can do and implement that are done at Laval or any other program that don’t cost money—it’s organization, it’s doing things the right way.”

What signifies the “right way” in the eyes of Collinson? Structure, hard work, and sacrifice.

“I’ve been saying this since I’ve been here and I believe it: Concordia University is an elite football program,” he said. “We have to hold ourselves to an elite standard and do things a little differently.”

The young coach believes that for this team to be successful, every member of the team has to want it.

“It’s the kids’ team, it’s the players’ team,” said Collinson. “As coaches we’re here to guide them if things go off the rail, which is bound to happen at some point, but in the end the team only makes it as far as the team wants itself to go.”

Collinson’s arrival as head coach signifies a culture change for the program to many, including Vance, the California native slated to be this year’s starting quarterback. The level of professionalism expected of the team has not been seen in previous years.

“I’m excited to work with him this season,” said Vance after the team’s first practice. “We facetimed a couple times when I was home this summer and I got to know him through that and it’s just exciting to see the way he’s changed the culture and the way we do things here, it’s exciting stuff. Today, he brought it and he’s shown everyone a new way to do something.”

Stingers Athletic Director Ryan has seen it too, noting the team’s willingness to adapt to the changes that are expected of them as a unit and as individuals.

“Everyone is buying into it,” he said. “Look at the mandatory team runs at 6:30 on Friday mornings that he’s been doing for the last three or four weeks. Everyone who’s been in Montreal this summer has shown up.”

As Collinson said, this is the players’ team, and the attitudes some have shown ahead of this season look promising.

“I think it’s going to be a great season,” said rookie receiver Frederick Brunette. “We have a talented group and Brad is a great coach. He’s bringing intensity in our workouts and our practices, and with him it’s about competition. Training camp is a grind, it’s hard work and once we get through this it’s time for the real deal.”

Collinson’s goal for this season, like all U Sports football coaches, is to win a Vanier Cup.

“Our goal is always to win a Vanier Cup,” said Collinson ahead of training camp. “If you don’t have that goal then there’s no point in being here.”

His strategy for achieving this: taking it one step at a time. This starts with an exhibition game against York University, and then the first game of the regular season on Collinson’s former team’s home turf against Laval. From there, the team will work towards that Vanier Cup, but it’s not something the young coach is worried about today.

“We can’t predict the future but with our hard work and what we do we can kind of steer the future the way we want.”