Maus (pronounced Moss) Collins, Carroll High School's veteran football coach, doesn't carry a clipboard of trick plays and time-consuming practice logs. He doesn't work his players until their tongues reach their shoulder pads or insist they spend their every waking moment thinking football.
"My players see and hear me enough from August to the end of the season and if they can put up with me that long, they deserve a star," Collins said. "We don't have any offseason weight program and we don't show films and talk about next year. I want my players to forget about football, put their interest elsewhere.
"During the season, people ask me if we have a playbook because they never see me with one. I think we have one, but we don't use it. We teach the kids on the field what we want them to do. We run a basic offense and defense and add special plays as we go along, depending on our opponent. Adaptability is the greatest asset a coach can possess. You have to be able to change with the times or the game situations. There are a lot of times when you have to junk your entire game."
And there are times when everything goes as planned. So well, in fact, that even Collins might not be able to resist having some fun.
Several years ago, his team had a four-touchdown lead and the other team had begun clock-watching long ago.
In the final minutes, the other team scored its only touchdown of the long afternoon. It was set to kick off when Collins, a former football and basketball official, suddenly directed a friendly barrage of remarks toward official Jim Matthews. Another official took Collins' comments seriously and threw a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct flag. Matthews burst out laughing while Collins, whose mood and words turned X-rated, was assessed two more 15-yarders.
"I would have gotten another one but my team would have been out of the end zone," Collins laughed. "It started off as a joke between Jimmy and me. I looked up and the other team was kicking off from my 15-yard line."
Collins and his team laughed all the way back to Northeast Washington, where the Catholic school is located.
For most of his 25 years as head coach, Collins has been able to smile. He has amassed a 157-45-4 won-lost mark and been ranked No. 1 in the metropolitan area more than a half-dozen times. The last three seasons, his teams have won 29 of 30 games, losing only to Gar-Field, 3-0, in the mud. Carroll currently has the second longest winning streak in the area, 14.
Three years ago, Collins contemplated retiring. That May, he underwent a heart-bypass operation and he wasn't sure he wanted to return to the field.
"Fortunately, I had a great staff who did all the work," said Collins, who is also director of guidance at Carroll. "Bob Silk, Al Lucian and a couple of other guys have been with me forever. I was able to return to practice in August but I took it easy. The kids loved it because I couldn't holler. And I don't holler now."
Coaching opponents and the hundreds of athletes who have come through Carroll knew Collins' bark was well-intended. They knew he was open-minded, fair and knowledgeable in the game.
"His record speaks for itself," said St. John's Coach Doonie Waldron, who has contended with Collins for the past 10 seasons for Metro Conference supremacy. "He's an excellent coach and he brings out the best in the rest of the conference coaches."
Collins maintains he is serious about his work but he doesn't forget the main purpose of football.
"Football is a fun game and kids should enjoy themselves," Collins said. "Oh, we take the game seriously and we work hard but we keep things in perspective. I think we've been successful because we've had kids each year who are willing to work hard. At Carroll, we've always gotten a certain type of kid. We didn't have to concern ourselves with discipline as much as other schools. I think I've only had to throw only one kid off the team since I've been here. And that was for giving one of our team captains some grief."
Once the team captains are chosen, they run the team. Collins and his staff are consulted only when the captains can't handle something.
"I put a lot of responsibility on the kids and I expect them to handle it," Collins said. "And, they've done very well all these years. I've seen the school change from predominantly white to predominantly black, but we've gotten the same type of kids. I can't think of one team I haven't enjoyed coaching.
"We stress the team concept, the 'we-not-me' concept," he said, "and we live by the same rules. The No. 1 player receives the same treatment as the 45th man. Some people fail to realize you need that 45th man as well as the starters. They are the backbone of your team."
Collins said one of the toughest tasks he faces each season is telling players, especially seniors, they just don't have the ability and won't play much.
"I'm hard but I'm not unbending," Collins said. "We believe in letting the best kids play, regardless of class. It's tough to tell a senior he won't get in too many games. At the start of every year, I call in each player personally, tell him the situation and give him the option of quitting or staying. A lot of kids feel they are better than they really are and that's very frustrating to them. But very few quit.
"Some places, parents get upset and get involved. Here, our parents don't hassle us, they're too busy working. Everyone is not going to be happy with a player's time on the field but we've always done what we thought was best for the player and the team and that's what we plan to keep on doing."