What else can you really say about what has happened here this week, particularly on Thursday afternoon at Valley Ranch.
For starters, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a press conference that was as powerful as what I witnessed here at Valley Ranch. And if I have, it certainly didn’t come from a 21-year-old who has already faced as much as adversity as most people will ever endure.
At any point, insert your own ‘wow’ moment to what has actually transpired here.
For starters, the Cowboys ended up signing La’el Collins, who was projected to be a Top 15 pick and one of the first offensive tackles in the draft. That’s a wow-like statement by itself.
The Dallas Cowboys get to pair up Collins, with Randy Gregory (another one-time Top 10 player) and Byron Jones, the only official first-round pick for the Cowboys this year. That’s a double-wow!
If you consider Collins a first-round talent, the Cowboys now have four first-rounders on this team, along with Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. All three of them actually earned All-Pro status as well. Another wow.
But all of that aside, let’s get to the real greatness that took place on Thursday.
In all of my years of watching these press conferences, I can’t remember someone who completely owned the moment like Collins did. And speaking of the “moment,” let’s give the Cowboys some credit for making sure Collins got one. Maybe it’s not the same as being a first-round pick, but at least he got a press conference, his picture taken with his new jersey and cap, standing next to his mother.
No Collins didn’t get drafted. Instead, he got to do the drafting himself. And after a meeting with Jerry Jones Wednesday night, that included the likes of Tony Romo and Tyron Smith, Collins didn’t really need to visit any more teams.
“I had the opportunity to choose from 32 teams where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy,” Collins said. “I wanted to be in a place where I would fight for championships, year in and year out. I wanted to be in a place where I would reach my full potential around guys that see the same vision I see, a team that stands for something. I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to everything that Dallas, everything that this community, everything that this team, everything that these fans that support this team, I look forward to everything this city has to offer and I want to be a great asset, I want to contribute to being the best offensive line in NFL history. I’ve got the opportunity to do it and I chose it.”
That was really the first thing out of Collins’ mouth since being introduced to the Cowboys organization. Of all the rumors, all the scrutiny, all the unwanted attention, and finally Collins gets to join a team, speaking into the mic and that’s what he says? Jason Garrett said it best when he called it inspirational.
Jerry Jones couldn’t help but get a little teary-eyed on a couple of occasions, not only when he listened to Collins speak from the heart, but when the owner himself shared some of the conversations he had the night before with his both Collins and his mother.
All in all, it was just a special moment because you know just how much pain the young man has been through.
Here he is at the NFL Draft in Chicago last week and attending a community event when he gets advised that it’s time for him to leave and head back to Louisiana so he can meet with the police. Never considered a legitimate “suspect” for the death of his former girlfriend, who was murdered last month, but Collins still had enough of a dark cloud over his head that prevented any team from taking him.
Most guys dream of getting the chance to attend the NFL Draft and hear his name called.
Never before does that scenario include having to leave early and never getting the chance to get picked.
Collins got a second chance now, even though the investigation remains ongoing, it appears his name has been cleared.
Now, he can focus on playing football. And while he undoubtedly lost millions in this process, Collins still has a refreshing perspective.
“I never played the game for the money – I play because I love the game, I play the game because I’m passionate about it. Just to be here – I’m still getting paid,” Collins said. “And at the end of the day, it was way more than I was getting college. It’s a plus. It’s a great situation. What’s for me is going to be for me. The money, all that – that’s cool. If I handle my business and this team handles the business that we know we’re going to handle, that’ll come.”
If Collins can provide as many wow moments on Sundays as he did this Thursday, the Cowboys will indeed have the best offensive line the NFL has seen in many years, if not ever.
Our job tells us to be objective. This guy makes it difficult because he’s a kid you have to root for.
At one point, Collins stared right at a reporter and said, “I chose to wear this star because I feel like I’m a star. My family’s a star. And we will represent it very well.”
Just a few hours removed from signing his contract, La’el Collins already has.
Courtesy: Nick Eatman
CBA DELAY: Collins can’t participate in Dallas Cowboys first rookie minicamp
It’s true. Because of the players union agreement with the NFL, La’el Collins isn’t allowed to participate in the Dallas Cowboys 3-day minicamp.
If La’el Collins had not visited the Dallas Cowboys until Thursday and signed on the same day, then he would have been good to go.
From the NFL rule book:
“A club is permitted to bring in free agents who were eligible for the Draft to its facility after the Draft once, either at its three-day weekend minicamp, or for a one-day (24 hours) mid-week visit prior to the minicamp for the purpose of signing them. If a club chooses to bring a free agent player to its facility for a mid-week visit, it is also permitted to administer a physical examination at that time, but no on-field activity is permissible. Such players will not be permitted to attend the club’s three-day minicamp.”
Collins is already back in Louisiana, and he can’t participate in minicamp – but that’s hardly a big deal. This weekend is essentially a walkthrough for rookies to get acclimated, but it’s not exactly strenuous football activity. Collins is allowed back at the facility starting on Monday, and he’ll be allowed to work out with the team. He’ll be on hand for OTAs and the full-team minicamp, which is the meat of the offseason program.
THE TRADE BAIT DEBATE: Dallas Cowboys deep trenches deepen speculation
Now that the Dallas Cowboys have signed La’el Collins, bolstering their offensive line depth, fans are wondering what are the chances that one of these linemen gets traded to fill another need.
It wouldn’t be surprising if someone needing an offensive linemen made a call to the Dallas Cowboys, especially if that team has an extra running back that makes sense. The Cowboys have done an outstanding job of building depth and it appears that they might not want to lose that edge.
The Dallas Cowboys have outstanding depth, along with insurance of capable backups in place if someone gets hurt. Ronald Leary has a degenerative knee condition that kept him from getting drafted initially, and is currently in his final year of his rookie (UDFA) contract. Veteran, and unit leader, Doug Free is coming off surgery and he’s 31 years old. It’s unknown how high of a price those guys would command.
As you know, the team also drafted two offensive linemen (Chaz Green and Laurence Gibson) and have several others joining the team as undrafted free agents (namely C Shane McDermott and OG Dan Quave). The current roster also includes veteran backup center/guard Mackenzie Bernadeau, offensive tackles R.J. Dill, Ryan Miller, along with Donald Hawkins, Tony Hills, Darrion Weems and John Wetzel. This is a crowded field, but we’ve learned that Jason Garrett likes competition within units and will ultimately put the best five linemen on the field.
All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith (drafted No. 9 overall in 2011), Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick (drafted No. 31 overall in 2013) and All-Pro guard Zack Martin (drafted No. 16 overall in 2014) are likely locked. Experienced starters like Ronald Leary, Doug Free and Mackenzy Bernadeau — not to mention Chaz Green (selected No. 91 overall last week), have an edge in the equation.
All of this leads to a question the Dallas Cowboys should be very happy to ask: where exactly will Collins play amid this collection of talent? He was an all-conference left tackle last season at LSU, and he has 25 total starts at left tackle. He also started 13 games at left guard during his sophomore season.
“He’s played both positions in college. He has the skill set to play both positions in the NFL,” Garrett said. “We’re going to play our five best offensive linemen. And we’re going to figure out who those guys are. He’s going to have an opportunity to play both.”
TRUE-BLUE: A must-see Dallas Cowboys video moment captured LIVE at Valley Ranch
This (recorded LIVE) press conference is available on the Dallas Cowboys audio archives page of The Boys Are Back website | Duration: 37:41 | Listen or download the audio HERE. Check out the video HERE on the Dallas Cowboys video archives page.
The original announcement article of the official signing is posted HERE