TAMPA — Scott Collins preaches religion as the pastor at the Northwest Community Church in Carrollwood.
He can also kick your butt.
Collins doesn’t come across as a tough guy, but, just ask him and he’s got all the confidence in the world. He doesn’t take anything from anybody.
What he doesn’t do is go out of his way to take money. Northwest Community Church doesn’t pass the plate like most churches. He relies on community support and he’s been successful.
Collins and the Northdale Golf Club hosted a fundraiser on Aug. 2 to build a new youth facility for local teens. Collins said he could have used a facility like that when he was fighting his way through middle school and high school.
“I was a fighter when I was a kid growing up,” Collins said. “It didn’t take much to get me off.”
Collins became a professional fighter and won the last Regional Toughman contest before he decided that he was done with hurting people for a living. He fought before full houses at the Tampa Bay Forum and won 38 fights while finding religion. He started practicing martial arts at the age of 13, moved on to boxing and kickboxing, and his career moved on from there. “I used to fight with anger until I became a believer,” Collins said, sitting inside his peaceful church in Carrollwood. “I grew up with a lot of anger and took it out on a lot of people. But I always had this one soft spot. I knew anger wasn’t me.”
Collins went to Hillsborough High and was a kind of enforcer. He could fight, but the soft spot came out and, if people went out of line, he knew how to handle things. The bullies knew who he was and knew when to not cross a certain line.
Still, Collins had some confusion in his life. Until he turned 21, church was never much of a thought. When he turned 21, he was invited to church and swore that would be the only time. “Never again,” Collins said of that trip to church. “Then I thought about it. If God led me here I just had to ask the question to God. If he led me here, I need Him to show me if He was real.”
Collins thought and pondered and decided that his mission in life wasn’t to beat up people for a living. He went all in with God and hasn’t regretted a thing since.
“When I was 15, I would have punched you in the nose if you talked about these things,” he said. “But I am happier now than ever and my parishioners know it.”
Collins is open with his congregation. They know he was a fighter and he doesn’t hide it. “They all know my story and they are great about it,” he said. “I never lie to them.”