Sometimes, success can come early for college football players and that success goes straight to their head. Such was the case for J.R. Collins with the Virginia Tech Hokies as a strong freshman season in 2010 led to a feeling of entitlement that opened the door to some bad habits. That bad road led to an ultimatum from head coach Frank Beamer last season to shape up or ship out, and Collins has gotten his act together and is now ready to put his best foot forward again in 2013.
Collins burst onto the scene as a freshman defensive end, earning a start as he recorded 25 tackles on the year with five sacks as a part-time rush end. That production led to the young defender thinking he already had college football figured out, Collins admits, and that hubris was only reinforced in 2011 when he started 14 games for the Hokies and broke out with 57 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and an impressive 16 quarterback pressures.
His success on the field, though, began to take a toll on his work ethic off of it. Collins put on weight and started slacking off in his classes and workouts, showing up to meetings late, falling asleep or not paying attention half of the time. It led to a major dip in production last season, as Collins finished the year with just 31 tackles and 1.5 sacks while appearing in just nine games.
Collins had his big revelation with Beamer before last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl and realized that he needed to make a change. He rededicated himself in all areas of his life, improved his grades and dropped 20 pounds as he came into spring practice. He’s now ready to work with his talent and become a better football player in his senior season, anchoring the Tech pass rush next fall.
It’s never a good story when a talent like Collins throws it away because he thinks that he has arrived. Luckily for the Virginia Tech senior, he realized the error of his ways before it was too late and has taken the steps to turn things around, giving VT fans a chance to see just how good he can be in 2013.