Collinsworth at home
Bengals Great Just a Neighbor in Fort Thomas

Cris Collinsworth has never been shy about expressing his opinions.

It’s one of the attributes that led the former Bengals wide receiver from the football field to become one of the NFL’s top announcers and analysts. That includes having a spot in NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast booth — one of the NFL’s signature weekly showings.

Collinsworth has many passions, not the least of which is the life he, his wife Holly and their family have built in Fort Thomas.

Fort Thomas was an easy choice when the couple decided where to make their home. It’s where Holly Collinsworth grew up, her parents still live there, and it fits the easygoing personality her husband has never lost from the time he was introduced to the area as a second-round draft pick in 1981.

“People get mad when I say this, but I say this in a loving way: it’s sort of like Mayberry around here,” says Collinsworth. “Everybody knows everybody, and they take care of each other and watch out for each other’s children and best interests. After a while you kind of get addicted to it. It’s been a great community.”

Giving Back
Fort Thomas has provided much for the Collinsworths, but the family has also given back to the community. The couple has raised four children — Katie, Austin, Ashley and Jac — who have developed their own identities. Katie is a senior at her father’s alma mater, the University of Florida; Austin is a sophomore at Notre Dame; Ashley is a freshman at Harvard and Jac is a junior at Highlands High School.

“They have such a giving mentality in so many areas,” says Highlands Athletic Director and Football Coach Dale Mueller. “Holly has been so active in all aspects of bettering the schools, especially when we’ve had to raise money. Holly has really led the charge there. She’s done a phenomenal job. We wouldn’t have the schools that we have if it wasn’t for her. There have been numerous other projects in Fort Thomas. She has led the way to improve the city and make it a nicer place for the people who live here and a more attractive place for people to move here.”

That’s another reason Collinsworth finds Northern Kentucky to his liking: academic and sports programs are both important at Highlands.

The three older children were all part of state championship teams at Highlands. Katie was on two state soccer championship teams and one in track and field, Austin played major roles in two football titles, and Ashley was on four straight Class 2A track and field championship teams, including one with her sister. Jac is a wide receiver on this year’s Blue Birds team that is seeking a 21st state title.

This season, Mueller, short a wide receivers coach, figured it couldn’t hurt to give Collinsworth a call.

“I was thinking he wouldn’t have time to do it,” says Mueller.

After talking it over with Holly and Jac, Collinsworth accepted the position. He was at weightlifting practice the next day.

“I would say you couldn’t find a better guy anywhere because Cris has the experience and the knowledge, but he’s also a wonderful person who has the full ideal of what it means to be a high school coach,” says Mueller.

“It’s meant to be an extension of your education. It’s the goal of high school sports to help young people develop,” says Mueller. “It isn’t to see how many games you can win; it’s to further the kids’ education through your coaching. Cris has that, and then he also has that phenomenal football knowledge.”

Collinsworth’s schedule is a busy one. He broadcasts games on Sunday, which require hours of preparation through film study and research during the week, as well as Saturday interview sessions with each team. He tapes the award-winning show “Inside the NFL” for Showtime on Wednesdays. Now he has added football coach to his resume.

To his thinking, that makes him no different than many of his neighbors who juggle busy lives but make it a point to be a part of the community in a variety of aspects. He and Holly have volunteered at sporting events in the past, following a tradition in Fort Thomas.

It’s the way they do it
“Everybody does it. It’s just the way they do it,” says Collinsworth. “It’s one thing to win, but it’s another thing to win with a real sense that everybody is involved. It’s the fraternity of football state champions that live in this city that continue to go to games. “They hang around after the games and clean up the stands and help paint the fields. It goes beyond when their kids are playing.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a place that revolves more around the school system and the local high school than Fort Thomas and Highlands does.”

Collinsworth is one of many former Bengals who live in the Greater Cincinnati area. According to Anthony Muñoz, the Hall of Fame left tackle and Collinsworth’s former teammate, it should come as no surprise that Collinsworth and Fort Thomas have been a perfect match.

“He’s such a big part of his community with his kids and the school, his helping out,” says Muñoz. “I think when you show that interest, that’s who he is. Even though he was pro football player and top announcer, he’s still Cris Collinsworth.”

Collinsworth says he and Holly once considered moving to Los Angeles when he was working for Fox Sports as a studio host. The consideration didn’t last long.

“I consider the successful life for me to be: Am I married to the same woman that I married when I was 30 years old? Are my kids fairly normal and successful and have an opportunity to do good things in their lives? That’s kind of it,” Collinsworth says.

“I always really thought the best opportunity for the success of our family was to stay here with the community that helped raise them.”