Madisonville native Alfred “Sonny” Collins led the Madisonville North Hopkins Maroons to back-to-back Class 2A State runner-up finishes in football. He rushed for 6,200 yards and scored 76 touchdowns from 1968 to 1971 and was also a four-time first team all-state player in football and a state champion sprinter.
Collins idolized Chicago Bears running back Gayle Sayers and took Sayer’s jersey number 40 for his own when he played at the University of Kentucky (1972-75).
Described as “unusually gregarious” and “unusually self-confident,” Collins wore flamboyant clothing and covered his bald head with an Afro wig when he was not playing football. On the field, he emulated his idol’s running style.
As an explosive all-American running back at UK, for decades he held the all-time career rushing record of 3,835 yards. His rushing record was finally broken by running back Bennie Snell in 2018 with 3,873 yards. He scored 26 career touchdowns and rushed for 100 or more yards in 18 games. In 1973, he accumulated 1,213 yards, a single-season rushing record at the university that Owensboro native Mark Higgs broke in 1987.
Collins was a three-time All-Southeastern Conference player, and the Atlanta Falcons drafted him in the second round in 1976.
Collin’s professional football career ended after one season. In 1989, he returned to the University of Kentucky to complete his undergraduate degree in communications. In 1991, he formed the Sonny’s Pals program to provide role models for emotionally and behaviorally disabled Fayette County students.
Living in Atlanta and after retiring from Delta Airlines, he spent most of his time riding motorcycles. He was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2013. He is also in the SEC Hall of Fame.
Collins will be unveiling his own clothing line soon rightfully named the “Sonny Collection” in the near future. On Feb. 1 he was recently awarded the “Athlete of the Semi-Century Award” presented by the the Concerned Citizens Society at the 2020 Black History Gala held at the Madisonville Community College.