As August faded into September and the football season loomed near, things were looking pretty good for Collier Winters. The 2009 season had been his coming-out party, and he celebrated in a big way, nearly leading the Crimson to a league title while racking up over 2,000 total yards in his third season. A threat through the air and on the ground, Winters earned a second-team All-Ivy selection for his play.
Understandably, expectations were high for the junior quarterback this year, with many predicting an Ivy League championship. The Sports Network even voted him the Ancient Eight’s preseason Player of the Year.
And then, in one play, his whole season was in jeopardy.
In the first quarter of the team’s first scrimmage, the quarterback suffered what appeared to be a season-ending injury.
“I had to avoid some pressure and rolled out to the right and made a throw,” Winters recalls. “At some point in my motion...I just heard a pop. [I] tore one of my groin muscles.”
The diagnosis wasn’t pretty. Harvard coach Tim Murphy openly acknowledged that he thought his quarterback was done for the year, and the same thought entered Winters’ mind.
“There was a lot of disappointment, maybe a little bit of worry about not being able to come back this season,” the quarterback says of the injury.
But Winters has had to deal with challenges his entire career. Rather than back down, he has embraced them.
The Oklahoma native began playing football in the second grade as a running back under the tutelage of his dad, Kevin Winters, a former outside linebacker at Kansas State. When the younger Winters entered high school, his father suggested a position switch to quarterback.
“I always wanted to be a running back, so I didn’t really want to switch at first,” Winters admits. “But eventually I started to like it a lot better, and it just felt pretty natural to step into that position.”
Winters’ play caught the eye of a number of Division I scouts. He committed to the University of New Mexico before receiving news that he would be offered a spot at Harvard, leading the signal caller to retract his commitment to the Lobos.
“I wasn’t quite sure if I would get into Harvard,” Winters says, “but then once I did, I always say it’s really not an opportunity you can pass up.”
The Kirkland House resident’s play was limited his freshman year, and after a torn labrum sidelined the quarterback in his second season, Winters decided to take a medical redshirt.
In 2009, his sophomore season, it was Winters’ turn to take the helm. But he had a tough act to follow. His predecessor, Chris Pizzotti ’08-’09, had been dominant, leading Harvard to two straight Ivy League championships and earning the 2008 Ivy League Player of the Year award.
“It’s really hard to fill a player like Chris Pizzotti’s shoes,” says senior running back Gino Gordon.