Coachspeak: Overlea football's Craig Rollins
The year before Craig Rollins took over the football program at Overlea, the Falcons posted a 3-7 record. Last fall, in his first season, it didn't look much better until the seventh week of the season when the Falcons beat Patapsco, 20-13.
They haven't lost since.
After going 5-5 last fall, the Falcons are 6-0 and in first place in Baltimore County's Class 2A-1A Division and the Class 1A North region. They're aiming to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Although they made it nine times between 1983 an 1993 with a trip to the state final in 1988, they've qualified only twice since.
Saturday's game against Western Tech (1 p.m. at CCBC-Catonsville) could determine who wins the division and regional titles. Western Tech (5-1) is the defending champion in both.
Rollins, 34, had been an assistant coach at Aberdeen and Milford Mill before taking over the Falcons. He played football at Morgan State and finished his playing career at West Chester (Pa.). After three years coaching at his alma mater, Abington Senior High in the northern Philadelphia suburbs, he and his wife, an Edgewood graduate he met at Morgan, moved to Maryland to be closer to her family.
As this week's football Coachspeak guest, Rollins talks about the Falcons' success, his coaching style and his goals for the program.
How did you end up at Overlea?
The position opened up last year and I applied for the position. They wanted to go in a different direction. Overlea’s had a tradition of winning and it’s definitely a good place to be, good rec programs around the area. And it was my first opportunity to become a head coach.
What has been the driving force behind the turnaround at Overlea? What happened last year to spark it?
Discipline. Having the kids believe in themselves and making them believe anything worth having is worth working for. Nothing worth having is easy to get. You’ve got to fight for it. The last four games of the season we started turning things around with the hustle, the work, the drive, the will power. It was the mental change. They wanted to win. They wanted to get better.
How has the team improved as you’ve gone along this season?
Discipline, getting the plays down, conditioning, hustling to the ball. People are starting to identify their roles on the team. The Randallstown game was the turning point, holding each other accountable, persevering. We were down a couple players for disciplinary reasons (minor infractions) and we were able to get through the adversity. You’ve got to be disciplined in school as well as on the field. They have to understand that. They have to be student-athletes. I believe the student-athlete comes first.
How would you describe your coaching style and who did you look to in developing it?
I would say I’m a players coach. I can relate to what they go through. I played the game from rec to high school to college. I was a student-athlete and I understand some of the things they have to go through. Coach Reggie White from Milford Mill was a mentor. He played in the League (NFL) and at (North Carolina) A&T. He brought me in as a defensive guy. I learned a lot from him because he played defense in the League. My coach back in high school, Doug Moister, he taught me a lot too when I first got the job there as a young coach. He taught me how to be a coach and how to understand different aspects of the game. Chris Davis, my position coach in high school, helped me. He was at Potomac in Maryland when I started coaching and he started calling me and mentoring me. They were real important people in my life, Coach Davis and Coach Moister. They were there for me as a young man. I think about them now when I make decisions about my team and my players.
What are your goals for the program short term and long term?
Short team, making a winning program and getting the boys believing in themselves, so things go the right way. We want to win the county championship. The long-term goal is to get the boys into school, to get the program to the point where they can receive scholarships possibly. Championships and stuff may come, but my goal is to make them into great young men and get the into college and, hopefully, they can come back and give back to the program that helped them. That’s my long-term goal.