How Landon Collins boxed out the doubters while overwhelmed with emotion

Ben Standig
NBC Sports Washington

How Landon Collins boxed out the doubters while overwhelmed with emotion originally appeared on nbcsportswashington.com

ASHBURN -- "When is this going to be over?"

Camden, Landon Collins' precocious young son, sought clarification on the day's agenda while tugging at the white-ish blue jeans with purposely-large holes worn by the Redskins new safety.

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The day at Redskins Park began hours before Thursday's 2 p.m. press conference with behind the scenes meetings, introductions to members of the organization and presumably the signing of a six-year, $84 million contract.

Several smaller interview sessions followed. Now a smaller group of reporters encircled Washington's splashiest off-season acquisition at the back of the auditorium inside Redskins Park for more questions.

Collins, 25, paused for a moment to answer the query from the youngest member of the scrum.

"In a few, alright?" Collins responded sweetly to his son. He turned his rugged 6-foot-0 frame back toward those inquiring about his fit in the Redskins' defense, why the New York Giants let him enter free agency and the clear emotions of signing with the team he rooted for growing up New Orleans.

"After being with the Giants, I didn't think I was going to leave," the four-year veteran said during the podium portion of his day. "Once I got the opportunity to leave, my dream was to come here. I had all my [University of Alabama] guys here. … It was an opportunity that was offered, and I jumped on it. I had to be here."

Some might suggest there are $84 million reasons why Collins, now the league's highest-paid safety, felt he had to be with the Redskins. Even the most callous among us surely recognized the choice went beyond the bottom line.

Like other safeties of his generation, Collins idolized the late Sean Taylor growing up. He wore Taylor's No. 21 with the Giants in honor of Taylor.

"This is a place I always dreamed of being at because of my favorite player," Collins said. "It's an honor to be here, all smiles, no nervousness, just all excitement.

Collins broke down crying when Redskins owner Daniel Snyder presented him with a game-worn autographed Taylor jersey Wednesday night. The emotions returned when retelling the story.

Defiance emerged when asked about specific labels thrust upon him.

New York typically used the physical 218-pounder closer to the line of scrimmage as a "box safety." That role made some analysts question the sense behind the Redskins paying him those many dollars.

"I laugh, honestly," Collins said of such criticism, "because I'm not just an in-the-box safety. I make plays in the box, yeah, but I make plays also other places. People see me in the box because that's what teams ask me to do sometimes."

Collins played more snaps deeper in the middle of New York's defense under a different coordinator. He said the Redskins indicated they plan to use him in a more traditional safety role.

"Pretty much it's people they don't know what they're talking about," Collins said of the critics. "But when I get the opportunity to show that I can play different spots, I will."

Doug Williams, the Redskins senior vice president of player personnel, saw a potential difference maker once Collins became a free agent after the Giants declined using the franchise tag.

"When you see him on the field, you knew that he was one of the best football players on the field. You're not talking about a 29-year-old guy. You're talking about a 25-year-old you can see playing for the next six, seven years," Williams said.

Collins, who had surgery in December after missing the final four games of 2018 with a partially torn labrum, isn't sure why the next years of his career are somewhere other than New York. He recognized the changes as the Giants dealt with "turmoil" and "all that craziness" last season.

"No talks were going on. Nothing was being said," Collins said. "Don't know what the future holds with the New York Giants but I'm glad it happened because now I'm in that Burgundy and Gold."

Collins became the seventh Alabama product on the roster. Six are on the defensive side including Washington's previous two first-round selections, lineman Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Those former teammates repeatedly pestered Collins into a reunion.

"We're ‘Bama made," Collins said. "So, we know what it takes to win, and all we want to do is win. Yes, it played a great deal in trying to get here. They made it very easy. Because playing with guys that you know they are going to get after it as much as I get after it, it made it much easier."

There's denying the money makes life easier. "Honestly it's awesome," Collins said. "It gives you the aspect that you can breathe." With it comes responsibility. His mature demeanor should help and turn him into a locker room leader.

Another potential burden looms should the organization allow Collins to wear Taylor's number.

"I love that burden. I love that passion. I love that on my shoulders. I definitely could carry that," Collins said.

It's not often anyone gets to truly lives out their dreams. The Redskins are giving Collins that opportunity.

If all goes well, the joy won't be over anytime soon.

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