By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Ivan Collins Jr. graduated from Wichita North High School in 1953, but no one questioned his allegiance to the Columbus Titans.
Soon after moving to Columbus in 1974, Collins quickly entrenched himself in the community and began attending every Titans athletic event he could.
“As long as I can remember, he’s always been there at the games and supported the teams,” said Heath Perry, who is an assistant football coach for the Titans and graduated from Columbus in 1988. “He was always the first one there. Any event you were at, he had probably already been there an hour. The phrase, ‘the 12th man’ is painted on the stadium at Columbus. He put meaning behind it with the crowd. You always knew that when you went to the game, he’d be there.”
Collins died Wednesday in Columbus at the age of 77. Students and alumni of Columbus High School quickly turned to social media to honor and share stories of their “super fan.”
“One of the greatest people I’ve ever known passed away today,” Columbus graduate C.J. Napier posted to Facebook on Wednesday. “He’s honestly the nicest, most passionate person I’ve ever met. He’s also the biggest Titan fan that there will ever be! If he’s not in heaven right now, the rest of us don’t stand a chance. I’ll miss you, Ivan.”
Reagan Soper posted: “Titan sports will never be the same, but I know Ivan won’t miss a game watching from above! We love and miss our #1 fan.”
The comments of Napier, Soper and many others served as an example of how Collins was viewed in the Columbus community.
He was described as a man of faith and loyalty. Collins was a member of the Center Christian Church in Columbus, the Lions Club, VFW Post 1372, the American Legion, and the Galena Masonic Lodge.
Columbus wrestling coach and 1985 graduate Eric Napier said Collins always put the kids first.
“He always encouraged the kids,” Eric Napier said. “He always let the kids know that there was a bigger picture than wins or losses. He told them not to compare themselves to anyone else. He just wanted them to do the best they can as an individual.”
Collins’ support wasn’t confined to sports like football and basketball.
“It wasn’t just football,” Columbus football coach Dan Grundy said. “He was there for both basketball, baseball, softball, you name it. At almost every Columbus event that was occurring, he was there supporting it.”
Collins worked various jobs over the years, including for Boeing Aircraft in Wichita, Kan., the Land Air Company in Chicago and the North American Rockwell Corporation in Tulsa, Okla. He also was self employed as an electrical maintenance contractor and worked for the Cherokee County Law Enforcement Center as the director of maintenance.
He married Agnes Wiske in 1985, and she preceded him in death in 2003. His survivors include his brother Pat Collins of Galena, a sister Helen Knetzer of Wichita, and his step-daughter Paula Doman of Medicine Lodge, Kan.
Visitation will be from 6-7 p.m. Sunday at Derfelt Funeral Home of Columbus. The funeral service will be 10 a.m. Monday at Center Christian Church in Columbus.
“He was always at our practices,” Perry said. “It’s going to be sad being at practice and not seeing him there. He was always on the field with the boys broke the banner. It’s going to be rough not having him there.”