Casey Collier loves his older sister, Charli. He admires and adores her. Few families, in fact, are tighter than the Colliers—19-year-old Charli, 16-year-old Casey, and mother Ponda.
Still, that doesn’t mean Casey didn’t grow weary the last few years of being “Charli’s brother.” The two played basketball every day growing up, and it wasn’t until recently that Casey finally outgrew Charli and they finally stopped playing competitively.
But until then, their battles on the court were one-sided, and Charli enjoyed letting Casey know about it.
“She would beat me a lot. She’d block my shot all the time,” said Casey, a junior offensive tackle for Barbers Hill High. “My freshman year, while we were scrimmaging at school, boys versus girls, she blocked my shot in front of everybody.”
Charli, now contributing as a freshman 6-foot-5 post player for the University of Texas, is a Barbers Hill legend after totaling more than 3,500 points and 1,400 rebounds in her high school career. Casey wants the same stature for himself. That is why, during the spring of 2018, he decided to put down a basketball for good and focus strictly on football, the sport which he knew had his ticket to bigger and better things.
“It’s not bad, because I love my sister,” Casey said of growing up in Charli’s shadow. “It just pushes me to make my own name. I don’t want it to be all the time where it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re Charli’s brother.’ I saw her get all those offers and all those colleges she was looking at. She worked hard to get that. I knew if I worked just as hard, that could be the same thing for me.”
The 2018 season was Casey’s first on varsity, and he played well. The 6-foot-7, 292-pounder allowed just two sacks in starting every game for the 7-4 Eagles.
Casey has two offers, from North Texas and Houston Baptist. He’s also talking to SMU, and his top schools include Florida, Texas A&M, LSU, Nebraska and Texas.
Barbers Hill coach Tom Westerberg said Casey made strides “everywhere” from his sophomore to junior seasons, “living” in the weight room, listening to coaches and working hard on flexibility.
“If he can do the same thing going into his senior year, the sky’s the limit for him,” Westerberg said.
Casey bench presses 275 pounds. Last spring, he bench-pressed 205. He changed his diet, exchanging hamburgers for baked chicken and sodas for protein shakes, and emphasized more strength-training and speed in his workouts.
He wants to play next season at more than 300 pounds.
“Casey has always been a bigger guy, bigger than everybody,” Ponda said. “Within the last two years, he really started developing maturely. I just saw a big difference in him. Charli was a big influence in that, I’m sure, and everything just changed.”
Casey looked up to Charli ever since they were kids. Charli routinely beat him during physical basketball games in the driveway that led to arguing and Ponda pleading with Casey to stop playing Charli.
Ponda said Casey’s and Charli’s athletic forays mirrored the Millers of NBA and women’s basketball lore, Reggie and Cheryl, another sibling rivalry in which the older Cheryl would outplay, talk trash, and ultimately serve as inspiration for the younger Reggie.
“She was on the meaner side, honestly,” Casey said of Charli. “Whenever we get into arguments on the court or whatever, she’d bring up colleges. That motivated me a lot. She’d be like, ‘Are you No. 1? Do you have all these DI offers?’ Stuff like that. I was like, c’mon, now. It was very much a tough love approach.”
But it worked, and not only for Casey.
“I talk about his sister quite a bit, too, to all of our players,” Westerberg said. “There was a day last spring, before a track meet, and I went into our gym for something and I could hear music and basketballs. I thought, ‘who in the world is practicing in the spring?’ And she’s in there by herself, working and sweating.
“I tell our kids, when nobody’s watching you, what are you doing? She’d already signed her scholarship, and I saw what she was doing with no one around. She’s working to get better.”
Westerberg said Charli’s influence on Casey is simple.
“He wants to be a Division I athlete, too. He’s developing those same work habits,” Westerberg said. “They both love what they do. And she got to a point where she made huge strides from her junior year to senior year, to where she could take over a game her senior year. She couldn’t do that as a sophomore and junior, and it was a testament to the hard work she put in. We’re hoping Casey can do the same thing.”
Westerberg often brings in game tape of offensive tackles he’s coached. Casey will study the film diligently, taking in habits and moves of guys like Greg Little (Ole Miss) and Bobby Evans (Oklahoma), two players entering this year’s NFL draft whom Westerberg coached at Allen High prior to coming to Barbers Hill.
“He’s very motivated to be the best player he can be,” Ponda said. “He studies the game all the time. He can tell you about any left tackle that’s out there.”
Casey said he felt he did “OK” for his first year on varsity. He was named to the all-district first team. For that, he credits his preparation, which is why he aspires for even bigger and better things next year as he works to make himself—and, yes, Charli of course—proud.
“She tells me she’s proud of me. She tells me to keep doing what I’m doing,” Casey said. “Next season, I want no sacks. I want to flow a little better when working up to the linebackers. I just want to get that much better perfecting my craft.”