Lenoir City High School senior Wyatt Collins realized a dream March 24 in front of family, friends and coaches when he signed his letter of intent to play baseball at Chattanooga State Community College.
Collins committed nearly two months ago and feels a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.
“I guess from the day that I committed, it kind of took a chip off my shoulders going forward because it’s nice to play committed,” he said. “Coming from like my freshman and junior year and playing uncommitted, you can’t help but think like about your performance and where you’re going to end up going. Just getting the opportunity from Chattanooga State is really big for me and it’s awesome.”
Collins received interest from several schools but said CSCC was the right fit.
“With COVID and everything there was a lot of stuff going on with four-year players getting another fifth year, and I just felt like the best route for me was going to a junior college,” he said. “Chattanooga State is a great junior college, and I’m just really glad I chose there. It’s a really good program and a really good school.”
Aaron Simmons, LCHS head baseball coach, has only known Collins for eight months since accepting the job last summer but he said he believes Collins is one of the best catchers in the region.
“He brings straight up leadership, character and the way he carries himself each and every day on and off the field,” Simmons said. “He’s not a vocal leader, but it’s what he does on and off the field and kids react to that. He just has that type of mentality to help us out in that aspect. As a player, he’s going to do what you ask of him. Compared to other catchers, he’s smart, he has instincts, he keeps balls in front of him, his footwork is a plus-plus scenario. At the high school level, in my opinion, he’s one of the top catchers in the area.”
Collins stepped in as a freshman under former head coach Dusty Langley and made an immediate impact as a catcher, pitcher and batter.
He continued to progress and had a breakout sophomore season in 2019 when he led the Panthers with a .395 batting average, 20 RBIs and one home run en route to being named to the All-District 4-3A first team.
“I came in as a freshman and I was surrounded by some pretty good players and I’m just thankful that coming in, the catching spot was pretty wide open for me,” Collins said. “I went in and kind of filled that role, and I’m just thankful that role was open to me because I knew that I had something good in front of me. Going forward from there, it was just sort of a buildup and trying to become teammates with everyone. As a leader, I feel like I’ve grown more confident and I feel like I’m more a leader to my teammates.”
Collins credits both coaching staffs for his development as a complete player, especially from Simmons.
Collins has been instrumental in helping the Panthers achieve a 5-2 overall record and 2-1 start in District 4-3A play. Lenoir City is also ranked No. 12 in MaxPreps’ Class 3A high school baseball poll.
“Playing year-round baseball, I’m playing in the summer and the fall and so I’m seeing new coaches all the time,” Collins said. “It’s something I’ve sort of gotten accustomed to eventually. When I got to high school, I was used to it at that point. Thankfully, both coaches I’ve had in high school have been really great. It’s been good for sure, and I’ve really enjoyed both of them.”
Simmons also played at Chattanooga State and believes Collins is making the right decision to play under 18-year veteran head coach Greg Dennis.
He will have the opportunity to become an impact catcher for the Tigers and possibly at the Division 1 or 2 levels in the next two years.
“Chattanooga State is a very well ran junior college program, and I played for Coach Dennis in his first year there,” Simmons said. “The way the program is ran there, his mentality is going to get better as a player. The work ethic is going to get better, even more than what it is now. To me that’s a great benefit for him at junior college because he’s got a great chance to succeed after that if he keeps his mind right. He’s got that mentality to do that, he knows what he wants and he’s going to go get it.”