adison County’s Shelia Collins remembers the day she tore her ACL at the University of Tennessee and coach Pat Summitt broke from her tough-as-nails persona, showing a different side.
Collins, who led Madison County to the 1981 state championship, earned numerous accolades as a freshman for Pat Summitt as Tennessee upset the Cheryl Miller-led USC women to advance to the NCAA Final Four.
But Collins suffered a devastating knee injury in an instra-squad scrimmage as a sophomore. And her stellar career seemed in jeopardy.
“They took me to the doctor and Pat said, ‘I think this is it. I don’t know if they can fix this knee. It’s just torn up so bad,’” said Collins. “And I remember, it was the first time I’d ever seen her act like a human. She was emotional. She wasn’t screaming. She was just like, ‘I am so sorry.’ And I told her then. I looked into those blue eyes and I said, ‘You know what? I’m playing. I’m going to play again and I’m going to be good.’”
Collins said Summitt “babied” her as she recovered for several months.
“She babied me, because I went from being a basketball player to being a person that was hurt,” said Collins. “Playing for Pat is just hard, because she expects so much out of you. And you don’t put being nice in that person’s category, but she was (after the injury), and she would make sure I had a way to class. And it helped me with her, because I knew there was that side of her.”
Summitt retired last week as the head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols after 38 years. Her career is legendary. She finished with eight NCAA titles, 16 SEC regular season crowns, 16 SEC tournament titles, seven “National Coach of the Year” awards and a 1,098-208 (.841) career record.
Coach Pat Summitt and Shelia Collins are pictured during Collins' playing days.
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