Though he was always athletic, playing football and baseball while growing up in Wilkinsburg in the 1970s and 1980s, Frank Collins never thought he’d see, let alone, touch an Olympic Torch.

Now, he is having a special stand made to keep one in his Elkridge, Md., home. The same one he carried through the English countryside, May 24, as an official torchbearer for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which takes place in London in August.

CARRYING THE TORCH—Frank Collins carries the Olympic Torch through the English countryside, May 24. (Photo by Amy Collins)

Collins said he managed to milk an extra minute out of his the 350-yard jog before lighting the next runner’s torch. He wanted it to last as long as possible.

“I just got back and I have mine here in my office—unlit,” he said. “It will certainly be a unique conversation piece.”

Unique is an understatement. Collins, a 43-year-old manager of finance for Unistar Nuclear Energy in Baltimore, only has the torch because Unistar’s parent company, French energy giant EDF, purchased it for him.

EDF is the official electricity supplier for the London games, and as such, was awarded 70 torchbearer slots from a total of 8,000. Collins was given one of those 70 spots because of the sterling recommendations made by his coworkers. He was the only representative from the company’s North American operations.

“I’m really grateful to the company and my friends for making this possible. It’s a great honor and humbling,” he said. “One hundred of my friends and colleagues signed a nominating petition. But what was really touching were the essays they wrote about me, about my character.”

Torchbearers are supposed to be “inspirational people.” Collins’ coworkers said he more than fits that definition.

Some of their testimonials appeared in Collins’ hometown Howard County Times newspaper just before he left for England. They cited his commitment to his church and community, and his volunteer work with a variety of organizations including the American Heart Association and the Salvation Army. All said he best exemplified the Olympic spirit.

Coworker Cyndi James noted that he founded a 5k race to benefit children with language disorders, calling him a “great humanitarian.” Another colleague, Stephanie Jackson said everyone in the company is proud to know him and would be rooting for him.

Someone else who was rooting for him was his mother, Rosalyn Higginbotham, who now lives in Monroeville.

“I was so excited when I heard, and one of the first things I thought of was to call the news,” she said. “You hear such bad news about Black males, so I wanted to make sure they knew about a positive story.”

Higginbotham said her son was among the tops in his class when he graduated from Wilkinsburg High School, and while he played football and baseball, he always liked numbers and pursued accounting and finance at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and later at Villanova.

“And he runs marathons too. He was here for the Pittsburgh Marathon two years ago, but he’s run in Baltimore, in Allentown and in Philadelphia,” she said. “So when I go visit later this month I’ll see the torch and I’ll take a bunch of extra Couriers with me.”

She said that might help Collins’ 3-year-old daughter remember the very special trip when she gets older. Amaya, 10, and Wesley, 6, probably won’t need a reminder.

“We had a wonderful time, the three kids, my wife Amy and mother-in-law Patricia flew into London, took the train to Worcester, met some of the other runners, then went back to London and saw some of the sites,” he said. “Best of all we brought the good weather with us. It was a beautiful day for a run. I’ll never forget it.”

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