Collins, Niang Sign NLI's
New Canaan High School seniors Michael Collins and Lucas Niang signed their National Letters of Intent to play at the college level during National Signing Day on Wednesday.
Joined by more than 50 friends and classmates in the NCHS auxiliary gym, plus three TV crews and multiple local media outlets, the midday ceremony was run by NCHS Athletic Director Jay Egan. Collins will head to the University of Pennsylvania while Niang is bound for Texas Christian University. Several administrators and teachers there as well, including Principal Bill Egan, longtime Phys Ed teacher Priscilla Schulz and Assistant Principal Ari Rothman.
Collins—who signed what could be called a “likely letter” in that although Ivy League schools offer no athletics scholarships per se, can issue agreements signifying their commitment to admitting a recruited athlete—had arguably the most prolific season at quarterback in New Canaan High School history, setting a state record with 54 touchdown passes this year and also tying a single-game state record when he threw nine TD passes in a 69-26 win over Trumbull on November 6, 2015.
Perhaps most remarkably, Collins threw at least one touchdown pass in every game he played going back to the final three games of his sophomore season. With that streak of 27 straight games with a TD pass, Collins set yet another CIAC state record—one that should stay unbroken for a long time given the recent state-mandated restriction of 10 regular season games.
He also set school records with 89 career touchdown passes, single-season passing yards (3,414) and finished second to former Rams QB Matt Milano in career passing yards with 6,320.
“It just felt like home to me of all the schools I went to,” Collins told NewCanaanite.com, when asked why he chose Penn. “Just being on campus, I felt most comfortable there with all the guys and coaches and I’m excited to be going there.”
Collins would be the first player to mention that none of his records would be possible without the protection of Lucas Niang. The 6-foot-7, 305-pound lineman is the top-ranked offensive tackle in the state according to Scout.com. Niang anchored a New Canaan front five that helped the Rams rack up 523 points this season, averaging more than 425 yards per game.
Niang also had 38 tackles on defense, including eight in the dramatic Class L state championship game against North Haven. He also added a sack and a fumble recovery this season as the Rams took home their third straight Class L title.
Niang, one of the most highly recruited athletes to ever play for the Rams, chose TCU over other national powerhouses like Miami and Auburn.
“It’s the place I felt most at home, honestly,” Niang said. “After all my visits, it still remained up there. The players, the whole feel of the school. I liked the campus a lot. I had a good time with everybody there.”
“They are two of the hardest-working kids I have had and they just happen to be physically blessed and are able to go on to a Division 1 level,” Marinelli said. “I don’t know how we are going to replace them. I don’t think you can replace two kids like that. But they’ve earned everything that they’ve gotten, so I’m proud of them.”