Former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Cris Collinsworth, who now works as a National Football League TV analyst, is spending time coaching receivers for four-time defending state champion Highlands this season.
He came to Boyle County for the first time Friday and was on the sidelines helping call plays during the Bluebirds’ 35-14 victory over Boyle in the season-opening game for both teams.
Collinsworth tried to defer attention from himself and keep it on Highlands coach Dale Mueller and his players. But he shared some thoughts about star quarterback Patrick Towles, a Kentucky verbal commitment who threw for 194 yards and one score and ran for 76 yards and three more touchdowns:
Question: How have you enjoyed being around Patrick Towles and what type of future do you think he has?
Collinsworth: “He can be anything, anywhere. He makes some throws in practice sometimes that I go, ‘Oh my gosh. There are NFL guys that can’t make that throw.’ He is big, strong, physical. He is just now kind of getting into learning all the intricacies of how to read safeties, watch the outside (line) backer to see if he is dropping or coming up. He is a fast learner, a smart kid and he runs like a bear. He is competitive. I¿personally think there are going to be a lot of universities that are just sick they did not get on Patrick Towles sooner and will be trying to by the end of this season.”
Question: Will playing in a sophisticated offense like he does at Highlands help his college development?
Collinsworth: “Dale Mueller is a great coach. He is going to be well schooled in everything. Really, we are going to let him do his thing. We are going to let him throw the ball against teams that maybe he won’t have to all the time. Obviously against this team (Boyle County) we had to try our dardnest just to win the game. But there will be some teams we can run or throw and we are going to let him throw the ball because he’s earned the right to do that. He has been everything as a kid you would ever want. He is yes sir, no sir. He is the kind of kid you cheer for with all your heart. He has a pretty good gene pool, too (with his grandfather being for major league pitcher Jim Bunning). That right arm came from good stock.”
Question: Is there a major weakness in his game now?
Collinsworth: “Just experience throwing the ball. I tell him sometimes that is a good high school throw, but now let’s work on reading it, getting it out of your hand quicker and make a SEC throw. Then we will work on you making NFL throws after this. But it’s all anticipation, timing, understanding defenses and what they are going to do. But he has it all. He is that kind of player.”
Question: Does he have a huge passion for football like your oldest son, Austin, who now plays at Notre Dame?
Collinsworth: “He does. But he is a little more playful than Austin. Austin was serious all the time. This kid, he is a great locker room kid. we do little skits and funny things and he is always right in the middle of it. He keeps them loose and keeps them entertained, but he jumps these guys, too, if they need it. He will be tough on guys who are not doing what he is wanting them to do. Honestly, he is as good of a high school player that I have ever been around, and I’ve seen a lot. I can’t wait to watch him play in the years ahead.”
Question: Is that part of what makes helping the Highlands program fun for you?
Collinsworth: “If Pat Towles is here, it’s great fun.¿If he’s not, it is great fun. If you have ever been around this age kid and know what they are like, there is nothing better. I have never had more fun doing anything in my life.”
Question: How does your son (junior receiver Jac Collinsworth who did not play because of a hamstring injury) like having you helping the program?
Collinsworth: “We have a great relationship. I think he likes it. At least I think we are having fun. Or I know I¿am.”