In a world where most people think that bigger is always better, it’s important to remember that sometimes, big things come in small packages.
Grace Collins is one of those things. In fact, despite her small stature, the Barry University alumna and former softball player has made a mark on the community of Miami Shores, Fla., that simply cannot be forgotten.
As a 5’1” lefty slap-hitter, Collins spent her four years at Barry as a strong presence in the outfield as well as the batting order, coming in as a freshman and quickly securing the leadoff position in the lineup. Although she graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in both history and philosophy, Collins has left an indelible mark on campus thanks to her exceptional athleticism, unconditional love, and memorable smile.
During her time at Barry, Collins collected more awards than many athletes could ever dream of. In her senior year alone, Collins received the prestigious Barry University President’s Award, the Division II Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Award, and the Barry University Excellence in Leadership Award. She was a third-team Daktronics Division II All-America selection. An NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winner, Collins is a three-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association Scholar Athlete, and she was recently named as one of nine finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award, which honors one female student athlete in the country based on academic achievement, excellence in athletics, and dedication to leadership and service in the community.
Collins’ outstanding athletic performance as a junior featured many career-high statistics, including a .433 batting average, a .476 on-base percentage, a .513 slugging percentage, and 42 runs scored, all of which helped to secure a selection as a first-team All-American in 2011.
“During my entire career, I was told that I was too small,” says Collins. “I was fast, and I could bunt, but I was the runt of the group. I think that a lot of the time, I continued to play so that I could prove that I could.”
Armed with a large imagination and an even larger amount of love, Collins’ impressive resume extends much further than the softball field. During her time at Barry, Collins served as Vice President for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), where she acted as the chair for committees dedicated to such causes as the Make-A-Wish Walk for Wishes, America’s Moms for Soldiers, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
In fact, one of Collins’ main roles in SAAC was to help integrate the America’s Moms for Soldiers foundation into student life at Barry. She and fellow SAAC members coordinated the placing of boxes around campus so that students, faculty, and staff could donate goods to soldiers across the world. They also set up a night in conjunction with the Wounded Warriors Project to raise money and collect donations, and by the end of their run, Collins and her SAAC representatives were able to send 80 boxes to troops around the world, as well as donate extra letters, money and supplies.
“I got to write a letter to the soldiers who received the boxes, and we felt like they were part of the Barry community,” says Collins. “That’s what Division II is all about; it gives you a community and enables you to become a part of the avenues that can help you when you’re trying to do something.”
Because of her strong love for both athletics and academics, Collins chose Barry University for the balance that it could offer her on and off the field. She is now studying law at the University of Florida, but she will never forget the experiences that she had as a student-athlete at Barry University.
“The game of softball taught me so much. It made me a better person, student, and leader, especially at Barry,” says Collins.
She may be small, but there is obviously nothing small about her. Her 5’1” frame packs a lot of power, heart, and dedication.
After all, dynamite comes in small packages, too.
About the author: Katie Gwinn recently completed a summer internship with the SSC office. A senior at Saint Leo University, Gwinn is majoring in communications management. She is the President of the Student Government Union at Saint Leo and has interned for the Lion athletics communications department since August 2011. A former student-athlete that is truly passionate about writing and sports, her dream is to become a writer for Sports Illustrated.
Photo by Joel Auerbach