After three years leading the Warriors' offense to new heights, Collin Drafts has accepted his first job as a head coach.
During the past week or so, Collin Drafts has made the drive from West Orange High in Winter Garden to East River High — clear across Orange County — nearly every day.
If nothing else, the drive — a 45-minute trek if traffic is kind — has allowed for plenty of time for reflection.
Drafts, who has been the offensive coordinator at West Orange for the past three seasons, took the head coach job at East River Dec. 28.
As far as surprises go, the move hardly qualifies as one. Drafts, a young and charismatic coach with professional football experience as a quarterback in the Arena Football League, is one of the area’s best offensive coordinators and has partnered with Warriors head coach Bob Head to turn the program into an offensive juggernaut.
Drafts’ long drives across greater Orlando are an opportunity to reflect on the value of his time at West Orange, where his last day as a faculty member will be Jan. 14. You see, Drafts got his start in high-school coaching in 2011 when he was signed by the Orlando Predators and reunited in Orlando with then-Olympia coach Bob Head. After becoming the Titans’ offensive coordinator for two seasons, Drafts was a natural choice at Olympia to replace Head when he made the move to Winter Garden following the 2012 season.
It was a position for which Drafts recalls feeling like he was ready, but after some further reflection, Drafts — who was never formally offered the job at Olympia — remembers not being able to shake the feeling that something special was about to happen at West Orange. He called Head and asked if he could come along to Winter Garden and — after three playoff appearances, two district championships, the undeniable best season in program history and a ton of other firsts — the Warriors offense has never been the same.
“It was by far the best decision I ever could have made for my coaching career,” Drafts said. “(Being at West Orange) really showed me what it takes to have a successful football program from top to bottom.”
Now Drafts, the son of a longtime basketball coach in his native South Carolina, is getting his first chance to build a program of his own. And although he’s taken his career to East Orange County, he’s still got people rooting for him in West Orange — most notably his coaching mentor for the past five years.
“It was by far the best decision I ever could have made for my coaching career. (Being at West Orange) really showed me what it takes to have a successful football program from top to bottom.”
— Collin Drafts, new head coach at East River
“I’m super excited for (Drafts),” Head said. “I hate to lose Collin — Collin has been my right-hand man for five years. We’ve won four district championships out of five years together. We’ve had a great partnership, but I knew the time was going to come. He’s more than ready to be a head coach.”
Perhaps more than anyone, Head has witnessed the evolution of Drafts as a play-caller.
“He’s grown a lot because he’s been able to adapt to the different personnel that he’s had,” Head said. “When he first came to Orlando, he really had his system that he knew but now he’s learned to incorporate a lot more tight ends, a lot more two-backs, a lot more things to adapt to his personnel.”
East River will be a rebuilding job. The Falcons went 1-9 in 2015, but the school is located in a fast-growing part of town. Drafts sees potential — and an administration that wants a good football program.
And besides, Drafts becoming a head ball coach was always just a matter of time.
“I’m the son of a coach so I always knew I wanted to be a coach,” Drafts said. “I felt like it was the right fit at the right time for me to make that jump.”