HOLLAND, Mich. — Pat Collins was announced as the next head football coach at West Ottawa back in April after three state championships in 17 seasons at Montague.
"I thought it was a good idea because we needed a fresh start; we weren't doing so well," said Brayden Birkholz, a senior tight end and linebacker at West Ottawa.
Fellow senior Andrew VanDyk says the team was excited when Collins was announced as the next head coach.
"We were just hoping he'd bring a winners mentality to the team and help us get a couple of wins finally," VanDyk added.
The summer has gone fast for Collins, who is now building a program from scratch but he says so far, so good at his new home.
"It's been great," Collins told FOX 17. "The time has been flying by and it's been a fast summer, but it's been special. The energy the kids are bringing, and they're eager to get better and we're excited as a program just to take off where we are."
Birkholz says it has been a smooth transition with the new coaching staff.
"He makes sure to tell everyone that we're going to get through this all together. He knows there will be some new things like seniors having to learn new plays and stuff, but he says we'll coach you through it and help you through it."
The big adjustment for Collins will come in the OK Red as the Panthers prepare yet again for one of the toughest conferences in the entire state.
"You can watch film and you can see tremendous coaching staffs at work in the Red; week in and week out, there's no down weeks," said Collins.
The team is 0-15 over the past two seasons and while the returning players obviously want to change that, they're also taking responsibility for the future of the program by trying to work with the underclassmen.
"There's not many of us but we're just helping build the younger guys up," said Birkholz. "We're helping the next generation to be better and successful for the next season."
VanDyk echoed those thoughts.
"It is what it is," he added. "Obviously I want to win a game but you have to help the younger people because they're the future of the program."
It has been a change for Collins, who comes from a state championship at Montague to a rebuild at West Ottawa -- but he's excited for that challenge.
"When we finished our state title team at Montague, what are we thinking about right after the title is over? The next year. Get to work and work with kids, build relationships. When you have teams that aren't as good, what are you thinking about when the season is over? Working with kids, relationships. It doesn't matter if you're winning or losing, it's all about working with kids, having fun and building memories."
Collins will make his West Ottawa debut on Thursday, Aug. 26, when the Panthers host Northview and former head coach Ryan Oshnock.