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Love of the Game

Josh VanDyke • Aug 22, 2018 at 5:48 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — No one would have blamed Collin Takas if he decided to hang up his cleats for good after his second knee surgery in as many years.

As a senior in high school, such an invasive procedure and difficult rehabilitation process is quite a burden to bestow upon a teenager.

But, Takas has risen above the challenges and adversity of his physical setbacks twice and is now prepared to breathe some life into a Grand Haven football program that went 1-8 last fall and is looking for an inspiring leader.

"It's been a big offseason for me," Takas said. "I actually had knee surgery after the season was over because I wanted to try and play last fall, so I've just been working back from that. The disappointment of last year really motivated me to take my training and rehab more seriously and push myself harder."

For the first time in four seasons, the Buccaneers return the majority of their coaching staff, which has helped the players enter fall camp on the same page.

"Having the same system for two years in a row has definitely helped my confidence," he said. "We've basically had a revolving door of coaches lately, so to have that stability and continuity has been huge. The playbook hasn't changed that much, we aren't learning a whole new system and the players know what's expected of us."

Takas will move from wide receiver to quarterback this fall, although his experience under center is already pretty extensive.

"I've been playing quarterback for most of my life, so the move back shouldn't be too difficult," he admitted. "I basically just played wide receiver last year because the coaches wanted to get me on the field, and I wanted to try and help the team however I could.

"There are a few nuances here and there that are different, but I already know the routes. Now I'm just the one throwing the ball instead of catching it."

A big reason for Takas' familiarity with the playbook is that the team's offensive coordinator, Mike Takas, is his dad.

"That has really helped a lot," Takas added of his dad. "Not only does he know the system, but we're both talking about it at home, too. If I ever have a question, I know I can ask him and he'll know exactly what I'm supposed to do in a given situation. It's been a big help in understanding the playbook."

Both Mike and Collin Takas have a shared love for the game of football. That similar passion has inspired a father-son tradition that has helped grow a tight-knit bond between the two.

"For me, it's been really fun to be a part of Collin's high school career because we share a love and a passion for the game of football," Mike Takas said. "We've really bonded over that love, and we actually go and visit college practices every Spring Break.

"This year, we went out to North Carolina, so we stopped by North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Duke and watched the spring practices and just had a father-son trip together. That's how much we enjoy the game and it's really a fabric of our lives because there's so much to learn from the game itself."

As much as he enjoys coaching his son, Coach Takas sometimes has to remember to be a dad and not just an instructor.

"There's some good and bad that comes with that," he said of his job as a coach. "I have to remember to shut it down when we get home at times. I enjoy being his coach, but sometimes, I just have to be his dad and support him no matter what. At practice, I can critique him and try and help him get better, but at home, it should really just be all about support and letting him know how proud of him I am.

"For me, as Collin's dad, I'm really proud of Collin's character and integrity. That is what I'm proudest of and I'll enjoy that more than any stat or accomplishment he achieves athletically. He's also been a great student, too. Scoring touchdowns is a lot of fun, but I'm more concerned with him making a difference in his community and how he treats others."

For second-year head coach Joe Nelson, seeing Collin Takas overcome several setbacks and stay positive throughout the adversity has been inspiring.

"For a guy that has had a few years of setbacks, he's really handled himself well and done a great job of maintaining a positive attitude," he said. "The way he has worked with his rehab has been pretty inspiring and amazing, to be honest. Not a lot of kids would have a positive outlook or that kind of determination to come back from two separate knee injuries.

"He leads by example. His work ethic is apparent and obvious to everyone in the program. We all see what he has done just to get himself physically prepared to play and how focused he is mentally on the game. Everyone notices that he's done his homework in the film room and with the playbook and that's what a good leader does."

Now, Nelson is ready to turn Takas loose with a clean bill of health.

"He got a few reps last year at quarterback, but we really wanted him to be a playmaker at wide receiver last year with the way our team was set up. With his frame and his ability to go up and catch the ball, we wanted to put him in a position to help the team. He understands the offense already, so it's been a pretty easy transition for him to quarterback.

"We're excited about what he brings to the table as an athlete. As his football and track coach, I know what he's capable of, and we want to put him in a position to succeed and be an impact player for us."

Takas has enjoyed his time playing for Coach Nelson and cites his transparency as a welcomed addition to his coaching style.

"It's been awesome to play for him," he said of Nelson. "He's a great guy and a phenomenal motivator. He's always there for you if you need him, and he's basically got an open-door policy for players to go talk to him about anything before or after practice. That's really helped create a positive atmosphere in the locker room."

Although Takas doesn't mold his style after anyone in particular, he is a fan of another quarterback in blue that has had his own share of injuries in the early stages of his career.

"I've always been a big Matthew Stafford fan," he added. "I've grown up watching him play a lot as a Lions' fan. I'm not quite the gunslinger that he is, but I admire his toughness and his composure in big moments."

As a senior leader for the Bucs, Takas hopes to lead by example and share his passion for football with his teammates.

"Football is everything to me," he stated. "I really enjoy being around my teammates and it's a sport that really requires everyone working together to achieve a goal, so that's an awesome feeling to be a part of it.

"I just want to bring a good work ethic to the program. As a senior, I want to show the younger kids in the program that hard work does pay off, and I want to be a good example for the future of Grand Haven football.

"Making the playoffs and competing for an O-K Red championship would be the ultimate goal for us this fall, but we're just excited to get back out there and bounce back from last year."

Takas is one of only 11 seniors on the roster and one of only two returning starters for the Bucs this fall. With leadership roles and starting spots up for grabs, a competitive atmosphere at practice should serve the program well.

"The seniors we have are great," Nelson added. "We only have 11 on the roster this year, but every single of one of them has done a great job of influencing the team and helping the younger kids get involved. We pretty much have an open door for the juniors to take leadership roles on the team, too.

"When you only bring back two kids from your starting group, it's basically an open competition across the board. That might seem like a big undertaking, but it's just making everyone better. Everyone who comes out wants to play and everyone has a shot this year.

"Everyone is fighting for a job and it's like open tryouts almost. That's made practice more intense, and we're hoping the end result will be a better team this fall."

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