In 1962, long-time teacher and coach Grover Jones started the Collegiate football program. In 1963, he led the team to their first undefeated season. He coached for 20 years, but his most successful season would be in 1982, with multiple Division I and III commits, including offensive lineman Chris Tate (‘83) and John Fitzhugh (‘83), as well as quarterback Brian Reams (‘83). The team recorded a perfect season with a record of 10-0.
Jones was a tough seventh grade science teacher. My father Patrick Kirchmier, Sr., a 1983 Collegiate grad, stated that “this was the first time I was scared of him.” One memory Kirchmier has of how Jones taught was that “if you didn’t know the answer to a problem, he would stare at you and say, ‘Look it up in the big book!’” referring to a dictionary-like book with answers to science questions. Jones was a tough coach, too. Kirchmier claimed, “He was the ruler. He singled out people and players and wasn’t afraid to point out mistakes. He respected students and players, and he demanded respect in return.” Jones was the ideal man to begin the development of the Collegiate football program.
Randolph Macon Academy 1966 grad Charlie McFall came to Collegiate in 1970 as a teacher and coached JV football for ten years. From 1980 to 1982, he was the varsity assistant coach to Grover Jones. He explained how Jones was admired by his players. McFall’s most memorable moment was during the 1982 season, “Grover allowed me to call the plays as the offensive coordinator, and we went undefeated.” Jones took a chance with McFall, and it payed off. Jones coached a group of fearless players who put the work in to have a successful season. Kirchmier explained how his greatest memory was a picture taken after their game against crosstown-rival St. Christopher’s. It contained head coach Grover Jones and 1983 grads John Harper, Charlie Liebert, and Kirchmier. Kirchmier said that this picture summed up the feeling of this season, “that we finally accomplished what we wanted.” Now, Jones could be satisfied and was sent off with a memorable last year.
Today, the multipurpose sporting field is named after Grover Jones to commemorate his investment into the football program. McFall says, “he is most proud of the way Jones never recruited players. He built the program from scratch, and he made the best out of what he was given.” To this day, Collegiate follows the same non-recruiting policy, as well as helping players build character and good work ethic.
In the past decade, Collegiate has produced two NFL players, Jake McGee (‘09) and Russell Wilson (‘07,) and one notable University of Michigan quarterback, Wilton Speight (‘14), who could be a potential NFL draft pick a few years from now. With McFall as head coach, Wilson’s 2004-2006 varsity career was his most successful, winning the VISAA Division I State Championship all three of those years. McGee and Speight were coached by head coach and Upper School Dean of Students Mark Palyo, who won two state championships with those two. Collegiate continues to produce highly talented players, including kicker and William and Mary commit Jake Johnston (‘17), and Jess Speight (‘17), who will join his brother as a Michigan offensive lineman.
The Collegiate football program has won six state titles, and recently claimed their seventh in 2016, beating powerhouse Benedictine College Preparatory, who has won it the past two years. Palyo’s third title and first one since ‘09 was very memorable. The 2016 VISAA Division I state title game was a defensive battle. Collegiate’s defense held Benedictine to zero points in the first half, which no other team had done. “That’s what we had to do. They did not run as well, and that’s their game. Our defense dominated today,” said Palyo. Collegiate was the clear underdog in this game and wasn’t expected to win. The players had played together for three years and finally got what they worked for since the summer of 2016. With zero recruits, the team came together and figured out what it took to win a state title.
As a player, I can attest to the continued excellence of the coaching staff at Collegiate. They followed in the footsteps of Grover Jones and started from scratch. After each game, I will never forget the one thing they said, and that was, “Don’t be satisfied with what you have done.” They created motivation for the team, and they ran with it. Collegiate was able to be satisfied in the end with the 2016 state title that embodied the blood, sweat, and tears put into it.
Featured image courtesy of Collegiate School.