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Collier carries Alvarado with Herculean season

Jan. 15—Although Alvarado's 5-foot-10 quarterback has a wiry frame, there is nothing small about Cardea Collier or his game as the junior carried Alvarado through a stellar effort this season. Collier, a junior, dazzled opposing defenses with both his arm and his legs, and he took on any role his team needed him to fulfill — from punting to playing defense — en route to earning recognition as the 2023 All-Johnson County Football Co-MVP.

Despite his wizardry on the gridiron, basketball is Collier's number-one sport, but he could not avoid his fate of shoulder pads and cleats from his personal family tree.

"Just hearing about my dad's old stories and watching my older brother play in high school and college (University of Tulsa), too, it motivated me," Collier said. "Just watching those two pushed me even more and led to me playing."

Collier played numerous snaps in the secondary when he needed to fill in for an injured player and regularly punted the ball as a member of the special teams unit. However, Collier's best work came when he was in the shotgun formation or stationed under center. The junior quarter proved his dual-threat abilities routinely in 2023, and the work he and his teammates logged in the previous offseason helped the cause. Collier carried the ball 140 times for 969 yards and 16 touchdowns while he completed 193 of his 316 pass attempts for 2,666 yards and 27 touchdowns.

"We put in a lot of work. Coming in here right after basketball season, we started two-a-days and did morning workouts right after the season," Collier said. "Going through the summer, we had all our practices and workouts in the heat — we put in a lot of work to get to where we were at."

From 2022 to 2023, Collier improved his total offensive output by 854 yards and found the end zone four times more as a junior than a sophomore. The fuel to the fire came from a 23-20 overtime loss to Lake Worth in the bi-district round in 2022. In that game, Collier threw three interceptions and lost three fumbles, but he was confident in the fact that the way the season ended would be rewritten in 2023.

"I think my only motivation is from last year's playoff game — we had, like, seven or eight turnovers in the game," Collier said. "I told this year's group that wasn't going to happen anymore, so I just pushed myself, pushed the team and we got through that first round."

On the way to finishing 7-5 overall and claiming a bi-district championship this year, Collier led Alvarado to several prominent wins during the season. However, a thrilling 36-35 overtime victory on Homecoming Night stuck out more than the rest to Collier, and it came against a foe who reached the regional final in the postseason.

"It had to be Decatur — just because of how we finished the game," Collier said. "We came out hot and it kind of slowed down a little bit in the second and third quarters when they (Decatur) started making their run. Coming into overtime with Lance (Sansom) out there, he scored on a bubble screen or something like that. Then to get the two-point try and win the game like that, knowing they went to the fourth round, yeah — I think that was the one."

Leadership is usually inherited automatically by each football team's quarterback due to the heavy workload and responsibility a signal caller carries on the offensive side of the ball. With that, Collier pushed himself to adapt his leadership style.

"I think the biggest improvement off the field for me was just being more vocal," Collier said. "Last year, I didn't really talk — you can ask anybody — I wouldn't even talk until it was gameday. I didn't think it was that key off a factor, but it really was this year so I took on that role."

After his quantum leap in production this year, Collier is not tapping the brakes when it comes to setting high goals for himself. After breaking numerous offensive records within the Indians' record books, Collier already has his sights set on racing towards another accolade.

"After the season this year, Coach (Casey) Walraven told me about all the records I broke, and my first question to him was, 'How far away am I from the rushing record?'" Collier said. "I'm trying to get that rushing record this year."

Both the Alvarado football team's success and Collier's personal success are trending in a positive direction, and he aspires to take all the favorable momentum to another level in 2024.

"We want to get past the second round and keep taking that momentum from those first two rounds and carrying it over," Collier said. "I don't want no number four anymore, we need to come out at least number one or number two in the district next year — preferably number one — but however we can get it, we're gonna go get it."