A Man of Good Character

Mark Palyo remembers well that day in March 2012 when Collin McConaghy stopped by his office to interview for a job on the varsity football coaching staff.
Like Palyo, who had headed Collegiate’s program since 2007, McConaghy grew up playing the sport at the grassroots level, achieved great success in high school and at the University of Richmond, and possessed a deep affinity for the game as well as a knack for connecting with young people.
“We sat down,” said Palyo. “We talked. I recall thinking, I like this guy. He’s a man of good character. Based on that one conversation, I thought he’d become a very good coach.”
McConaghy signed on that fall to assist with the defensive line coach and coordinate special teams play. In time, he became defensive coordinator and, later, associate head coach.
Now, with Palyo’s retirement from the sideline after 17 years, an 89-57 record, and two Prep League and three VISAA championships, McConaghy will become Collegiate’s head football coach.
Only Grover Jones (1960-1982), Jim Hickey (1983-1985), Charlie McFall (1986-2006), and Palyo (2007-2022) preceded him.
“When you look at the history of Collegiate’s football coaches and the way they balanced the importance of school life with the competitiveness needed to have success, Collin is a great successor to their legacies,” said Athletic Director Andrew Stanley.
“He understands the deep history of the program. He understands the importance of developing the youth game. He understands the sport at the highest level. Collin has the experience, coaching acumen, and respect of the community that puts him in a unique position to propel us into the future.”
McConaghy’s football bloodlines run deep.
He grew up competing in youth leagues in Amherst County just north of Lynchburg and credits his dad Sam McConaghy, who coached him in his early years, with instilling the passion and intensity that would serve him well as a player and coach.
At Amherst County High, he started three years at linebacker and fullback and earned all-district, all-region, and all-state honors under Scott Abell, now head coach at Davidson College.
With the Spiders, he was a four-year starter and three-time All-Colonial Athletic Association middle linebacker, first under Dave Clawson (now at Wake Forest), then Mike London (now at William & Mary). McConaghy played a key role in UR’s national championship run in 2008 and served as a captain in 2009, his final season, when the Spiders finished 11-2 and reached the national quarterfinals.
After graduating in 2010 with a B.S. in business administration, he earned his credentials as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and, once he joined the Collegiate staff as Director of Summer Programs, an MEd in teaching and learning from Liberty University.
During his junior year at UR, McConaghy came to realize that coaching spoke loudly to him.
“My greatest lessons have come on the playing field,” he said. “I wanted to give back what my coaches had given me. Coaching became a calling. It’s never felt like a job.”
Though coaches are notoriously circumspect about providing details about their plans, McConaghy promises that the Cougars will follow a time-honored Collegiate tradition of competing with energy and fearlessness.
“Defensively, we’ll play a very aggressive 4-3,” he said. “We’ll have savvy, heads-up kids who understand their opponents’ tendencies and know where they need to be to make plays, not just tackles but creating turnovers.
“Offensively, we’ll try to put points up. We’ll know our guys and morph our offense to allow them to showcase their strengths. We play in a tough league. We know we need to show up and be ready each week. We’ve had a lot of success over the years. I look to build on that.”
This past June, McConaghy left Collegiate’s summer program to focus on his work with the Peavey Project, a non-profit he co-founded with former Collegiate colleague Jake McDonald.
The organization is named for former Collegiate basketball coach, guidance counselor, and mindfulness guru Alex Peavey. Its mission is to “teach mindfulness as a tool to enhance personal health, performance, and the communities we serve.”
Collegiate is one of its clients.
“A dream situation,” McConaghy said. “It’s surreal to have a full-time job with the Peavey Project that allows me to teach mindfulness and honor Alex and then be at Collegiate as a football coach. All my passions have collided into what many folks would call a job but what I call doing what I love.”
If McConaghy sounds thrilled and humbled by his opportunity, that’s because he truly is.
“It’s an honor, a blessing” he said. “We have awesome kids and families who support us through and through, so I couldn’t be more excited to lead the charge and have such an awesome group of staff members along with me. The relationships are what makes this so fun. 
“We’re going to make sure our kids are taken care of holistically, the football piece and mindfulness piece. We’re going make sure they understand that this program is a family. Once you’re part of it, you reap the benefits and see how special it can be.”
During the years they worked side-by-side and shared ideas and dreams, Palyo saw over and over that his initial assessment of McConaghy was 100 percent accurate.
“Collin has grown as a coach because of his commitment and dedication to the coaching craft,” Palyo said. “He’s put the time into preparing the defense, the film study, and the analysis of our opponents. And his demeanor and approach with the kids… He’s tough on them, but he’s always there to support them in all the right ways.
“They’ll be excited about the announcement that Coach McConaghy will be the new head coach. They know what he invests in the program, and I believe they’ll be ready for what’s next in Collegiate football.
“It’s been Collin’s goal to be a head coach, whether it’s here or somewhere else. From my perspective, I’m really glad it’s here at Collegiate.”