Besides studying his football playbook, memorizing passing routes and blocking assignments, running his routes hard (often breaking into the open 10 yards downfield), Brady Collins also does one more thing. He lifts weights religiously, redefining his body.
And that commitment, that determination to be the best he can be, is why this Adna Pirate is one of the top receivers in the state. In the first week of the season, after grabbing three touchdowns in a 35-14 win against Willapa Valley, Collins was named WIAA’s athlete of the week.
And he’s only a junior.
“Great kid. Great athlete,” said KC Johnson, who is in his 17th year as the Pirates head football coach. “Big, strong, fast.”
Johnson coached Brady’s older brother, Tyler, who was a sophomore on the Pirates’ state title team. “Brady grew up watching that and he has lived in the weight room preparing himself for his time,” Johnson said. “And it’s definitely showed.”
So it’s not an accident Brady is doing well.
“No, it’s not an accident,” Johnson said. “He comes from a good family. Hardnosed. Good worker. Tons of time in the weight room. If you see him physically, he doesn’t look like a 17-year-old boy. He looks like a 22-year-old man.”
Sometimes a kid is naturally gifted. Some are talented, but they don’t have the work ethic. Collins has both talent and drive. He was a two-sport athlete last spring for the Pirates, turning out for both baseball and track. He qualified for state in the 100 meters.
Every day he practiced with the baseball team and when he finished, he’d go to track practice. “To be a duel athlete like that shows the commitment level he has,” Johnson said. “He’s just a hard worker. We’ve got a bunch of them. That’s just been our ticket to success around here. That weight room and being hard workers.”
Collins started lifting weights when he was in seventh grade. Now, his max bench lift is 275 and he works out with 225. The payoff for this two-way starter is the ability to be more physical against an opponent. “I’m a receiver,” Collins said. “If they’re up in your face jamming you, you’ve got to be able to push them off.”
Collins’ work ethic has been contagious. Among other hard workers are seniors AJ Johnson, Conner Weed, Bo Moon and Brynden Jager.
Moon has played on the varsity since he was a freshman. He’s a 6-3, 200-pound senior who is a two-way starter, playing running back and defensive end.
Weed has started at quarterback since midway through his sophomore year, giving him that valuable I’ve-been-there experience.
“It’s definitely helped having a couple of years under the belt,” Weed said. “Knowing what situations you need to do different stuff. And time management. Having more control of the huddle.”
Jager started at center his freshman and sophomore years, but now he starts at right guard and at defensive tackle. Along with Moon, Jager was a ball boy in his younger years. That connection to Adna football deepens his commitment to the team. And there’s another payoff.
“Just being used to it all and knowing what’s going on,” Jager said.
And then there’s just his passion for the game. “I love the contact,” he said. “And just being with your brothers playing football. That’s fun.”
KC Johnson can’t help but smile as he reflects on one of his favorite photos. It’s a picture of the 2009 2B state championship football team, the Adna Pirates. And among the players on that championship team are a couple of ball boys, third graders who went to every practice, every game that year. Now those little kids are seniors, starters on an Adna football team hoping to return to the state playoffs.
“There’s the championship picture and all the little guys are in the front row with their youth football jerseys on,” Johnson said.
AJ Johnson, Weed, Moon and Jager were among those ball boys, smiling in that state championship picture. That long-time connection with Adna football only deepens Jager’s drive and commitment.
“Just being used to it all and knowing what’s going on,” Jager said. “Just being close and knowing it all.”
Like Jager, AJ Johnson has been around Pirate football for a long time. But unlike Jager and the rest of his Pirate teammates, AJ Johnson has another reason for being close to the team. His dad is the head coach. That coach-father relationship comes with some added expectations.
“There’s a little bit more pressure on me because I’m coach’s son,” AJ said. “So I’ve got to be a role model for the younger kids. That’s about it. I’d say it’s nice. But I get talked to at home about practice and about games.”
So sometimes the coaching continues after practice.
“He’s given me pointers on stuff I did wrong,” AJ said with a smile.
The father-son coaching relationship is a familiar story for the Johnson family. KC’s dad, Gary, coached him when he played football at Toledo High School.
Typically, AJ calls his coach “Dad” at practice. Being the coach and the dad at the same time has its challenges.
“It’s a joy and a challenge at the same time,” KC said. “Now I know what my dad went through with me. It’s not the easiest. But it’s an awful lot of fun at the same time.”
It’s a time both dad and son will always treasure.
“There’s moments we don’t always see eye to eye. It’s not always easy,” KC said “But he’s worked extremely hard, along with the rest of these boys, in the weight room.”
It’s been their ingredient for success.