By Casey Gisclair
After two weeks of having his reputation crushed by social media insinuations and sports writers turned legal experts’ phony casework, former LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins got his chance to state his case this past week—both to the police and to the public.
The days leading up to that moment were pure hell for Collins.
The NFL Draft was supposed to be the peak of the young man’s life, but Collins’ plan was derailed when police announced that they wanted to question him about the murder death of Brittney Mills—a woman Collins reportedly once dated.
Collins was never considered a suspect in the investigation—a fact that authorities stated, but never stated quite loudly enough. That important detail was always something that was mentioned in passing, sort-of in fine print.
And because of that, Collins’ hopes of being drafted in the NFL Draft were extinct—especially in today’s world where controversial personalities are faux pas—even when they are innocent of all crimes and guilty of none. After that two-week slander session, Collins’ situation cleared this week, and he got his chance to fire back.
He met with authorities and seemingly succeeded in clearing his name. Multiple reports state that Collins passed a polygraph test regarding his innocence. Other reports tout that he was out of town during the murder and that he has an alibi that can prove it.
Because of that fog of uncertainty being lifted, Collins got his moment this past week when he signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
The money isn’t what it should be for a player of Collins’ caliber, but it’s still more than you or I make in five work years combined, if not more.
But more important than it all was the freedom. Not financial freedom, but social and spiritual freedom that Collins gained through his words.
As Collins stood on the podium this past week in Dallas, emotions were high. The young man poured gratitude toward the Cowboys for giving him a chance to thrive and continue his playing career. The Cowboys poured that gratitude back, showing the lineman love and support throughout the process. At the introductory press conference, Dallas owner Jerry Jones shed a tear when speaking on Collins’ situation, touting boldly that Collins had nothing to do with the murder – an opinion Jones said he believes with 100 percent certainty.
I believe that, too.
I don’t think La’el Collins is a murderer.
In fact, I think he’s a pretty good guy. I covered Collins when he was in high school, doing a few recruiting stories on the Baton Rouge native during his highly-competitive recruiting process.
At LSU Collins blossomed and proved to be worth the hype. He was a great player at LSU, but also a great leader. At a time when the Tigers were hemorrhaging underclassmen to the NFL, Collins stood up, rolled the dice and stayed his entire eligibility.
He cashed in that patience with a dominant senior season that positioned him to be one of the Top 10-20 picks in the NFL Draft.
Until, of course, ‘it’ happened. ‘It’, of course, being society condemning an innocent man and making him untouchable, though he committed no such crime.
In his public statements in Dallas, Collins said he felt at home with Jones and the Cowboys’ players, proclaiming that the team will field the best offensive line of all-time during his career.
Quarterback Tony Romo said Collins’ addition to the already-loaded Dallas front could add several seasons to his career.
Whatever it might be, I’m just glad Collins has a home – a place that he loves and feels loved.
The young man deserves that at this point. He’s been through enough in the past few weeks.
La’el Collins isn’t a murderer. He’s a football player.
And a damned good one at that.
Everything happens for a reason in this life, and Collins’ pockets are a little bit lighter today than they should be. But if I’m a betting man, I’m betting that he’ll outperform his deal quickly and get his just due – sooner, rather than later.
It always seems to work out the way it’s supposed to in the long run, doesn’t it?