When the Green Bay Packers drafted Nick Collins out of Bethune-Cookman in 2005, many skeptics wondered if they chose the safety too high. Last year, Collins silenced any doubters. He intercepted seven passes and took three back for touchdowns, the latter of which is the most for a safety since 1986.
To maintain that elite level, Collins is training at the Athletic & Personal Development program in Bradenton, Fla., with other NFL players like wide receiver Matt Jones, Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions, Ryan Fowler of the Tennessee Titans... even soccer star Freddy Adu of the U.S. Men's National Team. He took some time out to talk in between grueling sessions.
Nick Collins on...
Which of his three touchdowns last year he'll best remember... I would say it has to be the one on Peyton. He's one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL. I had a chance to be in Hawaii with him, and he said, "Yeah, you returned that pick on me. I've gotta watch you No. 36." That was cool to hear. (See blurry video of the return below).
Preparation vs. instincts as a safety... How I approach it is just learning all of the formations, and once I go out there, I already know most of the tendencies. I would say it's 60/40 preparation vs. kind of taking a chance. I'm always studying other safeties and looking for things to add to my game. It's good to have a loaded clip going into a season.
Doubts about the Packers drafting him in the 2nd round... I always play with that chip on my shoulder. Coming from a small school (Bethune Cookman), some people look at you different. I've got to go out and prove to everyone that I'm worth a second-round pick and all of the awards I've gotten. Now that I've got a little bit of a rep, I'm trying to retain it. It just goes to show that if you put in the hard work and dedication, anything is possible. I know a lot of guys were thinking, "He came from Bethune, so what's he doing in Hawaii?" It really was a dream come true. It was a relief. I actually thought to myself, "Wow, I made the Pro Bowl."
Green Bay fans... They are insane. They're very passionate. That's all they think - football, football, football. I remember as a rookie, one early morning while I was getting ready for practice, a fan was like, "Can you sign something?" I told them that I was getting ready, and I would get them after practice. He goes, "I hope you get fired." It was crazy, but they love their players. They'll bend over backwards for you. That's why it's one of the great places to play.
Hitting a receiver coming across the middle... First, you've got to zero in on them because any little move will make you miss. Once you focus in, you don't want to hurt the guy, but you want to make the crowd go, "Oooohhh." As a safety, that's what you dream about. It's one of the best feelings in the world. My favorite is easy - Chad Johnson my rookie year. That was nice. Next year, we played in preseason, and he was like, "You're the guy that hit me last year. You better never do that again."
His offseason hobby... I'm a freshwater fishing guy. Bass. Bream. I'll go saltwater fishing a little bit. I don't think I'm going ice fishing, though. There's no way I'm going out on a frozen lake and just sitting there all day.
The NFL's biggest trash talkers... Chad Johnson is No. 1. He talks all the time. Brandon Marshall talks a little. He tries to get in your head. We play a lot of veterans, who don't really talk a lot. It's always the receivers complaining, "Oh, he's holding." Man, shut up.
One safety, one linebacker and one defensive end in history to have on his team... I have to go with my boy Ed Reed. I'll play strong safety, because I'm a little bigger. I'll go with Patrick Willis. I like the current guys. I want the new guys. I can't go wrong Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman. I've played with the guys on my team already, so I can't pick them.
Predictions for 2009-2010... I think we're under the radar right now, and I think the guys like it that way. We can go out there and just ball. For me, my goal is to be the best safety in the league. Picks, sacks, whatever. Defensive Player of the Year is my goal. Three touchdowns will be tough to match, but I want to break the record. I'm trying to get five touchdowns. I played running back in high school, so once the ball is in my hand, I know what to do with it. It's just natural.