By Trey Mongrue
My, how fast things can change.
It’s an overused cliché in sports, but it still can ring true in certain situations.
More than a year ago, six juniors on the LSU football team stood up in front of Les Miles and a handful of media members to announce their intentions of remaining on campus for one more season, putting off their National Football League dreams for the time being.
Five of the six—Jordan Allen, Jermauria Rasco, Terrence Magee, Elliot Porter, and Kenny Hilliard—were decked out in LSU polo shirts. They were decent looking shirts, but nothing eye-catching.
La’el Collins, on the other hand, was in a full suit. The fact that he was staying was a huge coup for LSU, and his attire showed as much.
16 months later… My, how fast things can change.
Just one week ago, Collins was in Chicago, getting ready for the 2015 NFL Draft. He was the surest lock of a first round pick there was and a multi-million dollar contract was in his future.
However, his connections—albeit still cloudy—to the murder of Brittany Mills quickly had all 32 teams drop the offensive lineman off of their respective draft boards.
are now in a time where, in the wake of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson scandal, the judgment of moral character in sports is taken into account more than ever. With all of this still so high up in the air with Collins, one can’t blame a general manager making a long-term investment on something that is such a wild card.
Now going back to those six players from 2014, it’s obvious that most of them sacrificed much by “deciding” to return to LSU as a senior.
As seniors in this recent NFL Draft, only one of those six were selected this past weekend with Hilliard taken in the seventh round by the Houston Texans—He’ll see a familiar face in the backfield there in former Tiger teammate Alfred Blue.
As for the others, Porter, Magee and Rasco went undrafted but were immediately scooped up by teams as undrafted free agents. By no means is it glamorous and it hardly guarantees that they will be on a 53-man NFL roster when the season begins in September.
And Allen? He transferred to Arizona not long after LSU’s 2014 spring practices concluded and then quit the sport three games into the Wildcats’ season.
Of the six, only Collins was the one who had a legitimate decision to make.
Considered by many to be a potential second or third round draft pick, Collins decided to put a professional life on hold and come back to LSU for his senior season.
“I feel like I’m prepared to play in the NFL,” Collins said then. “I also know in my heart that my time here at LSU isn’t complete.”
Collins’ announcement to remain in Baton Rouge was just what Miles and LSU needed.
Not only did it mean the return of the Tigers’ most feared offensive lineman, but it was a much-needed ego boost for a football program that was seeing a record number of juniors bolt early for the NFL. Collins was the example that Miles could point to future players and say, “look, you can stay four years and still be a high draft pick.”
Just go back to last January to see the effect.
In a setting not unlike the one with Collins and the rest of the 2014 juniors, Jalen Mills, Vadal Alexander, and Jerald Hawkins scheduled a press conference in the football operations building.
All three would’ve likely been drafted last weekend. But instead, they decided to stay at LSU for their senior season. All three mentioned Collins as a reason why.
It was sound reasoning. Why not potentially up your draft stock in addition to picking up a college degree along the way? For a moment, it seemed like the tide was turning to a period where maybe more LSU players would stay through their senior years.
The representative for that then, Collins now represents something different.
It goes to show that anything can happen, whether that’s injury, incident, or some other freak thing that was never hinted at coming, and it may be wise to jump at the first chance that the NFL comes calling.
Whether LSU will return to being a three-years-and-done factory for the NFL remains to be seen. For now though, there are much pressing matters at hand.
For one thing, we have no idea what happens with Collins from here. If he did indeed have nothing to do with the crime, then that could potentially open a whole new can of worms and quite possibly a lawsuit.
But at the heart of all of this, sports needs to take a backseat for a second. A mother and her baby were killed in cold blood and, unfortunately, nothing can change that despicable act.
Hopefully, the murderer is brought to justice sooner, rather than later.