If this was a normal year, Nico Collins would be in Ann Arbor, practicing with Michigan football.
But these are unprecedented times. And Collins, the Wolverines' former star receiver, is down in Pensacola, Florida, where he is training for the NFL combine after opting out of the college football season.
Collins made his first public comments on his situation during an appearance on "The Adam Schefter Podcast."
He called his choice to sign with agents and opt-out "a business decision" — one that he reached after sitting down with his family following the Big Ten's decision to postpone all fall sports in mid-August.
“Everything was going smooth, just how I planned, until this virus outbreak," Collins said. "The one thing that really impacted my decision was when we were supposed to play, our set date was Sept. 5 against Purdue, during that camp process, they canceled the season.
"That was heartbreaking for me because I wasn’t sure when the next time (we would play). They were saying in the spring, Thanksgiving, there were too many unknown questions to be answering. Nobody really had an answer. I sat down with my family. I just made a business decision."
Collins, who is projected as a first-round draft pick by ESPN's Todd McShay, felt like he was in "no-man's land" when the Big Ten made the postponement. He described how he had marked Michigan's first game — against Purdue on Sept. 5 — on his calendar. It was supposed to be the start of his senior season. Then came the cancellation, and because there was no word on when the season would take place, Collins began to question his future within college football.
"Once they canceled that and said they weren’t sure when the next time we would have a season, they were saying toward the spring, it was kinda like, that’s training," Collins said. "That’s the time where I get prepared for the draft around December, January, after the bowl game. They were trying to push toward the spring a little bit.
"I really just sat down with my family, I had a business decision. I really appreciate my family helping me out with that. That was one of the reasons. There were too many unknown questions to answer.”
The decision was hard on Collins, who says it'll be "bittersweet" this Saturday to watch Michigan open its season at Minnesota. But, he says, he "had to do what was best for me and my family."
"Once I signed and got ready the combine, that’s when (the Big Ten) came out with the statement to come back, they were going to have a season end of October, play Minnesota on the 24th," Collins explained. "It was kinda late. It was eight games. I just don’t want to get injured (or have) something bad happen.
"It just didn’t feel normal to me. It felt like everything was forced, almost, pressured. I just made the right decision. I want to be out there playing with my teammates and everything. But I just had to make the best decision that was right for me.”
He briefly considered opting back into the season, but sat back down with his parents and chose not to.
“It was an option," Collins said. "I thought about it. Again, when I see guys opting back in, that’s when I asked my parents. We had a talk. I just felt like getting my mind right and prepared for the combine was the right decision for me.”
On Monday, Collins was officially removed from Michigan's roster, while coach Jim Harbaugh said he was not with the team.
"Nico is not participating in football right now," Harbaugh said. "I don’t have a crystal ball as to if his mind would change or not. I know he’s not currently on the team.”
While he trains in Florida, Collins is still enrolled at the university and is taking online classes via Zoom, as are most other students. He told Schefter he is on track to graduate in May and he's still in close contact with his teammates.
"I want to be out there competing on the football field with my brothers, my teammates, just putting everything out there, going out there and having fun with them," Collins said. "But I’ll be rooting them on 100%. I’ll be tuned in, watching them play against Minnesota at 7:30, primetime. I’m excited to see. Hopefully they win. They will win. I believe in them, the grind that they put in throughout the summer, I know they worked really hard and I know it’ll pay off Saturday.
"The team is very special. We reloaded and I feel like the team has really got something to prove, and I feel like they’re going to prove everybody wrong. I feel like everybody has a chip on their shoulder, and they’re going to go out there and ball out.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football's Nico Collins explains decision to opt out