Collinsworth Transcends Image Of Typical Athlete

By  //  April 21, 2012


Cris Collinsworth on the cover of Sports Illustrated his rookie year with the Bengals. Collinsworth caught 36 touchdown passes in his career as an NFL wide receiver.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Cris Collinsworth isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.

Wile the National Football League has started to take seriously the danger of concussions, Collinsworth, an inductee for enshrinement in the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame  in May, has spoken out about the issue for years from his spot in the broadcast booth.

He long has been a critic of illegal hits and questionable tackling techniques, which often lead to head injuries and other debilitating injuries. A lot of players don’t like his opinions. Most of his peers – those who played in the 1980s – respect his outlook.

Collinsworth joined Al Michaels in NBC’s broadcast booth for the 2012 Super Bowl in which the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 21-17 in Indianapolis.

His television success often obscures his prowess on the athletic field. Collinsworth starred in football, basketball, track and field and baseball for Astronaut High.

He played quarterback for Jay Donnelly, was named to the all-state team in basketball during his senior year and won the 100-yard dash in the Class 3A State Track and Field Championships as a junior.

Multi Sport Star

Collinsworth was a four-year letterman in both football and basketball. His father, Abe Collinsworth, who played for a national championship basketball team under Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky, was his high school basketball coach.

Longtime Astronaut High team doctor Ben Story checks on former War Eagle, Florida Gator and Cincinnati Bengal star, Chris Collinsworth. (Image for

Collinsworth, who graduated from Astronaut in 1977, posted a time of 10.0 seconds in the 100 to edge Dennis Smalls of Bradenton Bayshore, Alfonse Brown of North Marion and Michael Andrews of Lake Wales. Each of the four recorded the same time, but the 6-foot-5 Collinsworth outleaned all of them at the tape.

Collinsworth earned All-America honors from Parade, Scholastic Coach, Joe Namath Prep and Kickoff magazines. The FHSAA named him an all-state quarterback on two occasions and he was named the All-Southern first-team quarterback for his play during his senior season with the War Eagles.

Despite a cordial chat with legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who wanted him to be his option quarterback, and a recruiting pitch from eventual Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, Collinsworth chose to play quarterback for coach Doug Dickey at the University of Florida.

In his first game, Collinsworth tied a collegiate record with a 99-yard scoring pass to Derrick Gaffney during the Gators’ 48-3 road victory against the Rice Owls. The Gators were 6-4-1 that season.

Multi Talented

A broken hand slowed Collinsworth’s progress that first season, and he even played three games in the defensive backfield with a cast on his hand late in the year.

Collinsworth moved to wide receiver for his sophomore season, and he began a three-year stretch where he would be named All-Southeastern Conference first-team each season. As a sophomore, Collinsworth caught 39 passes for 745 yards and nine touchdowns. He also carried the ball 18 times for 100 yards.

Dickey was fired after the 4-7 season, and the Gators struggled mightily during coach Charley Pell’s inaugural season. Collinsworth caught 41 passes for 593 yards and two touchdowns as Florida finished 0-10-1.

Things turned around in a hurry the following season as Florida finished 8-4. It was one of the biggest improvements in NCAA college football history.

Collinsworth, a senior, helped the effort with 40 receptions for 599 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 75 yards on nine carries. He finished his career with 120 receptions for 1,937 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Some NFL scouts thought Collinsworth was too slight at 6-foot-5 and 192 pounds to withstand the rigors of the NFL. That allowed the Cincinnati Bengals to take him in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft with the 37th overall pick.

Speedy Isaac Curtis was the Bengals’ top receiver at that time. Cincinnati took David Verser of Kansas with its first-round pick, and the Bengals also had Pat McInally and Steve Kreider.

National Football League Star

Cincinnati quarterback Ken Anderson and Collinsworth didn’t take long to click as Collinsworth caught 67 passes for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie.

Collinsworth caught two passes for 24 yards and one touchdown in a 28-21 victory against the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs. The following week, Collinsworth had two receptions for 28 yards as the Bengals rolled past the San Diego Chargers 27-7 in the AFC Championship Game.

Collinsworth had five receptions for 107 yards, but it wasn’t enough as Cincinnati fell 26-21 in the 1982 Super Bowl to the San Francisco 49ers.

In the strike-shortened 1982 season, Collinsworth continued his fine play with 49 receptions for 700 yards in just nine games. Collinsworth finished with 66 catches for 1,130 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games during the 1983 season. In the 1984 season, he had 64 receptions for 989 yards and six touchdowns.

Collinsworth had 65 catches for 1,125 yards and five touchdowns in 1985 and followed that with 1,024 yards on 62 catches in 1986. During the 1986 season, he had a career-high 10 receptions for touchdowns.

In just eight games in 1987, Collinsworth finished with 31 catches for 494 yards. He finished his career with 13 receptions for 227 yards in 1988 as the Bengals reached their second Super Bowl.

Collinsworth had one catch for 30 yards in a 21-13 playoff victory against the Seattle Seahawks. In the AFC Championship Game, he had one reception for 5 yards as the Bengals defeated the Buffalo Bills 21-10.

Collinsworth played his final NFL game in the 1989 Super Bowl, catching three passes for 40 yards as the Bengals fell 20-16 to the San Francisco Giants.

New Career

In 107 regular-season games in the NFL, 90 of them starts, Collinsworth had 417 receptions for 6,698 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Collinsworth received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Florida in 1981 and earned his law degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law in 1991.

Cris Collinsworth with Al Michaels during a Sunday Night Football broadcast. (NBC image)

He has worked as a sports radio talk show host for WLW in Cincinnati and later became a reporter for HBO’s Inside the NFL in 1989. That show eventually moved to Showtime.

Outstanding Broadcaster

He has been both a studio host and color commentator for NBC, Fox and the NFL Network.

He also was part of NBC’s broadcast team for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Collinsworth, who was born in Dayton, Ohio on Jan. 27, 1959, has won five Emmy Awards.

He and his wife Holly have four children. His son, Austin Collinsworth, plays football at the University of Notre Dame.