Most know South Plantation senior Alex Collins because of what he can do with a football tucked in his arms, but Paladins coach Doug Gatewood said there’s another side to Broward County’s reigning rushing champion.
The word he uses: “Interesting.”
“I told the University of Miami before they got him to commit [in January], Alex is different,” Gatewood said. “You look at him and you have in your mind who he is going to be. You see the hair, the beard — he looks like he’s 35 years old. But he doesn’t act or portray that. He’s just a fun-loving kid who enjoys life.”
Truth is, Collins (5-11, 210) doesn’t strive to be ordinary. And football, although his biggest passion, is not the only hobby he hopes defines him.
Off the field, Collins enjoys playing the piano. He has been playing it since the eighth grade and will occasionally sit down and perform Alicia Keys songs for his family, coaches and teammates.
In school, where he carries a 2.7 grade point average and recently scored a 20 on the ACT, Collins said he’s studying sign language “just to learn more.”
“It’s always good to learn more,” he said. “I’d like to learn Spanish, too.”
Although he’d love to have his own car (he’s hoping he gets one when he turns 18 on Aug. 26), Collins’ said his mom still drives him and his two younger brothers to school.
When he needs money — like he did when he wanted to buy a $300 ticket to fly up and visit the University of Wisconsin this summer — Collins said he does what he’s been doing since he was 8 year old. He paints houses and mows lawns around his neighborhood.
“Believe it or not,” Collins said of using a paint brush. “I’m pretty good at it.”
But what Collins is really good at — and what has Florida State and Wisconsin still in hot pursuit of him — is what he can do with a ball in his hands in the open field.
After sitting out his sophomore season because of academic issues, Collins ran for 1,786 yards and 28 touchdowns on 223 carries in 11 games in his first full varsity season and led the Paladins to their first playoff appearance since 2007. He was a different tailback then — roughly 25 to 30 pounds lighter than he is now.
“He hasn’t lost a step at all,” Paladins quarterback John Franklin III said. “In fact, he’s actually faster. He ran a 4.41 and 4.38 at the FSU camp this summer. I think he ran a 4.6 last year when he was like 178 pounds. The bigger he’s getting, he’s not losing any steps. His cuts are still the same.”
Franklin said the proof can be found on YouTube, where Collins’ lacrosse highlight video from last spring is available for all to see.
“It is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen,” Gatewood said. “You’re taking one of the best athletes in football and putting him on a lacrosse field with average-Joe kids. Remember the Benny Hill theme song? We put it to the Benny Hill theme song because that’s what it looks like — a bunch of people chasing his butt around the field. He doesn’t know how to pass or catch. But once he gets it, he just takes off. You have to see him, it’s hilarious.”
Collins, who also has played on the basketball and track teams at South Plantation to keep himself in shape, said playing lacrosse is something he would seriously consider doing in college.
What he said he isn’t seriously considering doing — not yet, anyway — is dropping the Hurricanes.
Even though he has been seen wearing FSU T-shirts around school and said he enjoyed his trip to Wisconsin, Collins said he remains committed to coach Al Golden and will wait to see how hard the school gets hit when NCAA sanctions are finally levied in the coming months.
“I don’t know how hard the NCAA will hit Miami or if it will be a soft touch,” Collins said. “But when I think about it, I really don’t want to be affected by something that happened before. I feel people that didn’t have anything to do with that situation should not pay the price for people who did. That’s why I’m waiting to see what happens before I make any final decisions.”