Alex Collins got to enjoy National Signing Day — just one day later.
With his father, Johnny, his aunt, Loretta, and his grandmother, Betty, by his side, the South Plantation star running back signed a national letter of intent to attend the University of Arkansas on Thursday afternoon. The school received his fax and announced it.
His mother, who ran off without signing those same papers Wednesday at a scheduled signing day event at his school, wasn’t at the private event held Thursday at Bokamper’s Sports Bar and Grill in Plantation. Instead, she hired attorney Jack Paris of The Cochran Firm South Florida, according to a news release, to represent “the family’s interests while she contemplates” where her son should decide to play football.
But Collins didn’t need his mother’s blessing. He got his father to sign the letter of intent. NCAA rules require prospects under the age of 21 to have a parent or legal guardian sign the letter of intent in order for it to be considered valid. South Plantation athletic director Mike Collins said the NCAA would accept the signed letter of intent because Johnny Collins Jr. is Collins’ biological father and is listed on his birth certificate.
“I’m happy. I’m excited. I’m happy it’s over,” said Alex Collins, who was rated the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose running back by 247Sports.com and had announced he was picking Arkansas on a cable show Monday night.
“I didn’t think about going anywhere else because I had my mind set. This is where I wanted to go. I talked to Mom and let her know. I explained myself, and we got a better understanding.”
Collins, dressed in camouflage and wearing a camouflage tie, said he didn’t know his mother, Andrea McDonald, had hired a lawyer. He said it was his understanding she was supporting him based on a conversation he had with her before heading to Bokamper’s to sign his letter of intent.
“The last conversation was basically about why I chose Arkansas and why I felt the love at Arkansas. She understood and supported me behind it,” Collins said. “She always supported me, it’s just the fact from her standpoint she wants to make sure this is the right decision for me and I’m not just picking a school and not understanding what I’m getting into. I’m leaving the state and I’m going to be a four-to-five hours plane ride away and she just wants to make sure this is what I really want to do.”
McDonald, though, apparently isn’t as supportive of Collins’ decision as he thinks. A few hours after Collins’ party cleared out at Bokamper’s, the law firm hired by McDonald released the following statement: “Ms. McDonald understands that Alex has received consent from his father who has signed the letter-of-intent for him to play football for the University of Arkansas. However, our client’s initial intentions remain unchanged.
“She is a loving and caring mother who only wants her son to choose a university without any outside and inappropriate influences. Ms. McDonald hopes all NCAA rules and regulations were followed during today’s signing. She is not seeking any personal financial gain because her only concern is for Alex’s happiness and well being. The Cochran Firm is standing by Ms. McDonald in this difficult time and has made all of the firm’s resources available to her as she explores her options.”
It’s unclear whether McDonald really has any options. The firm didn’t return phone calls or emails from The Miami Herald asking whether McDonald planned to take legal action. The NCAA’s website doesn’t specify how many signatures are needed — or if one takes precedence over another — for a letter of intent to be accepted.
Collins’ father said he received a phone call from Alex on Wednesday and agreed to sign the papers because “that’s where he wants to go.”
“It’s emotional,” Collins’ aunt, Loretta, said. “He really wanted his mom’s support, but at the same time it’s his decision. He would love for his mother to be here with him. But he had to make his decision with where he wanted to go. He came right to [Johnny on Wednesday] and told us everything that happened. I asked him, ‘Is Arkansas where you really want to go in your heart?’ And he said yes. So we will support him.”
Collins, who ran for 1,275 yards and 14 touchdowns on 155 carries as a senior and helped lead his team to a district title, said he never wavered on the decision he made Monday night on TV and explained why he didn’t choose the University of Miami. He had been a Hurricanes commitment until November.
He said pending NCAA sanctions at Miami didn’t affect his choice.
“It wasn’t necessarily something that turned me off,” Collins said.
“I love Miami. It’s a great place, close to home. If I was close to home, everyone could come. But I wasn’t making a decision for everyone else. It would have been great for everyone to support me at my games. But I’m making the best decision for me, and I felt it would be best for me to go to Arkansas. That’s ultimately where I want to go.
“I feel I have a great chance to get early playing time there. I just have to go in and work hard. With my work ethic, I feel like I can outwork anybody. Based on anywhere I would have went, I feel like I could have fought for playing time. I expect to get there and compete.”
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema released the following statement after Arkansas received the signed letter of intent: “Alex is a great addition to this class. He is an upstanding young man who has impressed us throughout our time getting to know him, and he focused on making a decision that was the best for him athletically, academically and socially. He has high character and is a student-athlete we are thrilled to bring into our family. He made it clear to us that he truly wanted to be a Razorback, which is what we want from everyone we sign.”