Rosie Collins Broke Down Racial Barriers in Colorado Springs

Rosie Collins was a pioneering athletic trainer at Colorado College and fixture in the Colorado Springs community.

In a time when diversity was planting its roots in Colorado Springs, African American men and women were attending and graduating from Colorado College. But it was in 1935 that Theodore Roosevelt Collins was hired as the first noncustodial African American staff member at the college.

Rosie Collins came from the athletic department at LSU to be the head trainer for CC’s football team. “I’m not sure they knew I was black before I got here,” Collins said in a 1975 archival interview in the Pikes Peak Library District Digital Collections. But he told administrators, “If you’re going to give me a Negro’s chance, I don’t want it. If you give me a trainer’s chance, I’m ready to go to work.” 

Collins started with a one-year contract that began 35 years as CC’s athletic trainer. He was loved by both students and faculty. Despite extreme nearsightedness, or perhaps because of it, Collins was widely known as an exceptional physical therapist and healer in the days before CT scans and MRIs.

“He was a genius,” said Horst Richardson, former men’s soccer head coach, at Collins’ 2018 induction into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame. “He couldn’t see much, but his fingers allowed him through touch to see and to investigate.”

Rosie Collins treats a Colorado College athlete
Rosie Collins treats a Colorado College athlete. Photo courtesy of Colorado College Special Collections.

Collins was one of the founders of the National Athletic Trainers Association, and he was an early proponent of using cold to treat strained muscles rather than heat. Collins’ reputation led to a lifelong friendship with President Richard Nixon after treating the then-presidential candidate for a stiff neck during a campaign stop in 1952.

Through the years, Collins helped many students find jobs and scholarships and even employed some at his part-time catering company. He also turned down job offers from the likes of the Denver Broncos and Brooklyn Dodgers, remaining at CC until his retirement in 1970.

Rosie Collins and Richard Nixon
Rosie Collins and President Richard Nixon. Photo courtesy of Colorado College Special Collections.

By The Numbers

23.8% American ethnic minority CC faculty and staff, 2019-20

343 Student athletes at Colorado College, 2019-20

129 Inductees in the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame, including Rosie Collins, who was inducted in 2018




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