1991 Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame Inductee
Category: MULTIPLE SPORTS
Parents: Sylvester & Selma Collins
Wife: Derenda Collins
Son: Sylvester Gaffney Collins
Daughter: Sylvia Collins
Sylvester Collins, a Flint Northern High School star, participated in track and football and track at Michigan Normal College, Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Sylvester was a halfback on Northern’s football team and a hurdler on the track team. Most track coaches prefer fast and exceptional coordination for hurdlers because of the number of steps between hurdles. Sylvester was an exception. He worked hard and long to excel despite his diminutive size. In 1948, while at Northern, he won 16 straight races and at the Central Michigan Relays he won the 180 low hurdles. In 1949 and 1950 he won the Valley Championship in the 220 yard lows, Regional 220 lows and 120 high hurdles. In the same years, he won the State 220 yard lows and was the 1949 and 1950 120 high hurdles Central Michigan Relays Champion.
In 1950, Northern captured the State Championship. Sylvester was a member of the 880 relay State Champion team that set a record of 1.31 which lasted for 12 years. Other team members were Leroy Golden, Ellis Duckett and Walt McMullen. Collins set the city record in 180 low hurdles at 19.6 in 1950. This record was rated as the sixth best in the nation.
After graduation Sylvester enrolled at Michigan Normal College. Not many scholarships were made available to blacks at the college level. Most had to prove themselves for at least one year, sometimes two. However, Sylvester again was the exception. He made his talents known. As a freshman in 1951 he ran the fastest time in the IIAC low hurdles. Michigan Normal won the IIAC Conference Championships in 1951 and 1954. In 1951, Sylvester made the National Collegiate Honor Roll of Who’s Who In Track Hurdles and in 1952-53, Normal was Central Collegiate Conference Champions.
After receiving his degree, Sylvester returned to Flint to teach and in 1971, he became the first black head track coach at Northwestern High School.
His track teams have won the Regional Championship in 1972-73 and 1975 and 1980. They were Saginaw Valley Champions in 1972 and 1975. Northwestern finished second in the State meet in 1975 and were first Cross Country Champions in Northwestern History. Sylvester was runner-up track coach in the State and Genesee County Coaches competition
For 19 years of his 22-year coaching career, Collins’s track teams have finished in the Class A top 10.