Nease High School announced on Friday the hiring of Collin Drafts as the Panthers’ next head football coach.
Drafts, a 33-year-old native of Beaufort, South Carolina, replaces Tim Krause, who left Nease for the head coaching position at Bishop Kenny High School.
“I’m just excited to get down there and get to work right away,” Drafts told the Recorder. “Nease is a special place, and I’m just looking forward to getting the football program moving in one direction together and building a family feel there.”
Drafts previously was the head coach of AC Flora High School in Columbia, South Carolina. There he led the Falcons to a 9-3 record in 2018 after they went 0-10 in his first season in 2017. AC Flora kicked off the 2018 season 0-2, extending the 10-game losing streak to 12. But the Falcons persevered and won nine games in a row, breaking a record for the longest winning streak in school history. Drafts ultimately led AC Flora to the district championship and second round of the playoffs. He was named Coach of the Year in 4A Lower State as a result of the turnaround.
“It was really just a special and rewarding year to be able to battle back from that winless season,” Drafts said. “You learn so much about yourself as a coach and a player and as a person too when you’re knocked down like that.”
Drafts constructed a similar transformation in his first head coaching position at East River High School (7A) in Orlando, where he spent one season before moving to Columbia. At East River, where Drafts said the school had won eight games in four years, he transformed a 1-9 team in 2015 into a 6-5 playoff team in 2016.
Before East River, Drafts was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at West Orange High School (8A) in Orlando under head coach Bob Head. Again, Drafts was part of a rebuild, as the Warriors won 32 games in the three years he worked on staff, after previously not making the playoffs in 15 years. In Drafts’ last year with the Warriors, West Orange defeated Mandarin High School in the third round before losing to Osceola High in the semifinals.
“He’s (Draft) been involved in a couple programs and taken them from places where things weren’t the best and then able to climb the mountain and do it the right way and teaching them to understand to deal with adversity,” Nease athletic director Matt McCool said. “I feel like one of the things that I liked is seeing that he had some adversity and was able to deal with it and keep the kids focused on the process of winning and not winning immediately.”
While at West Orange, Drafts coached quarterback Woody Barrett, who is now the starting quarterback at Kent State after a stint in junior college and initial start at Auburn. He coached another talented quarterback, former Florida State starter Deondre Francois, as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Olympia High School (8A) in Orlando, where Drafts spent two years.
Drafts’ success with quarterbacks shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he played the position himself for seven years in the Arena Football League. He most recently played for the Orlando Predators, as well as the Jacksonville Sharks, Dallas Vigilantes, Amarillo Dusters, Green Bay Blizzard, Tri-Cities Fever and Manchester Wolves.
Drafts played college football at Charleston Southern University (CSU), where he was the 2005 Big South Offensive Player of the Year, leading the Buccaneers to their first-ever Big South Championship in that season. He led the league in pass completions in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and also led in pass completion percentage in 2004 and 2006.
Drafts finished the 2004 and 2005 seasons as the Big South Conference’s (BSC) leader in passing yardage and passing touchdowns, and also led the conference in total offensive yards in 2005. Drafts is the only quarterback in Big South history to throw for 400 yards in multiple games, achieving the mark twice. He ended his career with three all-conference selections, two of which were first-team honors.
Drafts, who played for the Bucs from 2003 to 2006, is CSU’s all-time leader in rushing attempts, touchdowns, pass attempts (BSC record), pass completions (BSC record), passing yardage, passing touchdowns (BSC record), completions percentage (BSC record), total offensive yards (BSC record) and total offensive touchdowns (BSC record). He also holds numerous single-game and season records for the Buccaneers.
After his college career, Drafts was a graduate assistant at CSU and high school football coach in the Charleston area.
“He’s a hard worker,” McCool said. “He’s got a lot of enthusiasm. He has a great passion for what he’s doing in motivating young men, and (he's) very structured. He has some of the dynamics we’re looking for to lead us and build on what we have.”
Drafts doesn’t plan to move full-time to Florida until he fulfills his teaching contract in South Carolina, which ends in early June. Until then, he’ll be “burning up the road,” he said, taking trips down to Ponte Vedra to organize a staff and make the most of spring football.
“Spring football will be a work in progress,” he said. “We’re going to do our best. It’s not like we’re canceling spring football. I’m going to get down there.”
And Drafts has already had reason to get down here before the Nease job came to fruition. He has two children in the Jacksonville area, and moving to be closer to them was the “ultimate motivating factor” for him, he said.
Not to mention, he believes in the potential of Nease football. The Panthers went 3-7 in 2018, 5-5 in 2017 and 3-6 in 2016, so Drafts acknowledges the challenge that is ahead, especially with the Panthers bumping up to Class 8A. But, considering his track record, a challenge has not deterred Drafts before.
“I’m looking forward to build and do something special and be at Nease long-term,” Drafts said. “I think the vision that I talked about in my conversations with the athletic director, Matt McCool, and the principal, Lisa Kunze … we’re definitely on the same page about what Nease could be and the community and the players and everything that it takes to have a successful high school football program. I think it’s got all of the pieces of the puzzle, and I’m excited to get down there and get to work as soon as possible.”