In mid-December Kansas Pregame contacted 8-Man football coaches in an effort to name a first ever Top 8 team of seniors for both divisions of 8-Man football in Kansas. After an overwhelming response from coaches, and once all the votes were tallied, 16 players were selected.
This is the sixth of 16 individual player profiles highlighting the Top 8 selections in each division and released in no particular order. Look for more in the coming days.
Brayden Collins, RB/LB, 6-2, 210, Canton-Galva, Sr.
At the end of the third quarter of a football game, it’s common to see players holding up four fingers as a sign of their renewed focus and energy heading into the final quarter of the game. Expand the concept to represent the four years of a high school career, and nobody’s hand was held higher after their junior season than Brayden Collins.
After winning a state title punctuated by the greatest comeback in state history, 66-36 against St. Francis in 2019, Collins made a focused effort to take a big step forward during his senior campaign.
“My junior year I wasn’t sure about college football, but by my senior year it was something I knew I wanted to do,” Collins said. “I hit the weights hard and put about 60 to 70 pounds on my max lifts and got more involved in social media and posted my summer progress on Twitter. I also went to some football camps where coaches saw me and liked what they saw. I worked harder than ever before and hit the weights harder than ever, and it paid off with huge gains in size and strength.”
Those gains in size and strength translated to gains in Collins’ play as well. After an impressive statline of 150 rushes for 1,219 yards (8.13 yards per carry) and 18 touchdowns during his junior year, he did more with less last fall, tallying 1,182 yards and 30 touchdowns on 100 carries for an incredible 11.82 yards per carry average.
And Collins was no slouch on defense from his linebacker spot. His highlight film is littered with tackles for loss, sacks, great plays in pass coverage and picture perfect open field tackles. He also showed the ability to play on the line of scrimmage and get hands on opposing linemen immediately to disrupt blocking schemes or take a deeper alignment to cover short and intermediate pass routes.
While Canton-Galva junior Tyson Struber gets much of the media attention for the Eagles, Collins displayed speed on par with the standout wide receiver and recent K-State verbal commitment at Sharp Performance events last summer, with both players consistently recording hand-timed 40s in the 4.5s.
Although the Eagles’ 2020 season ended in the state quarterfinals with a 34-24 loss to a talented Madison squad - C-G’s only loss of the season - the Eagles were dominant in each of their 11 victories, with one of those wins by 22 points against the eventual 8-Man I Champs.
For his efforts, Collins is part of the first ever Kansas Pregame 8-Man Division I Top 8 while also earning first team All-State running back honors from the Topeka Capital-Journal, and honorable mention by the Wichita Eagle. He also earned Wheat State All-League first team for the second consecutive year and wrapped up his career as the second all-time leading rusher in Canton-Galva history with 3,405 yards.
Canton-Galva head coach Shelby Hoppes said Collins was a key piece of the most successful run in C-G football history.
“Brayden has had a tremendous career at Canton-Galva in his four years. He started on both sides of the ball since his sophomore season and has grown each and every year as a football player. He is part of the winningest class (37 wins) at Canton-Galva and was part of Canton-Galva's first ever state championship in football in 2019.”
Hoppes said it was not his size or speed, but Collins’ work ethic that is his greatest attribute.
“Where Brayden always separated himself from others, though, was his work ethic in the weight room. He came in as a 5-10, 150 pound freshman and will graduate as a 6-2, 215 pound senior. He was committed to getting bigger, faster, stronger and helped set a culture for what is expected from a Canton-Galva football player in the weight room.”
Collins is considering several options to further his academic and athletic career including Hutchinson Community College, Highland Community College, Bethel College and Butler Community College.
“Wherever he chooses to attend, I know he will be successful in football and in life because of his work ethic and willingness to make himself better at whatever he puts his mind to,” Hoppes said.