Former LSU offensive tackle and current NFL prospect La'el Collins joined Sports Illustrated on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming NFL draft and how his preparations and attitude have been shaped by his recent reunion with his father, who spent the last 20 years in prison.
Collins, a 6-foot-5, 21-year-old Baton Rouge native, was able to reunite with his father, Theotis, in the middle of last year. According to Collins, the two have been able to rebuild the relationship that was put on hold by his father's absence.
"...[When] he was released, we were able to just to really get down and been able to get to know each other a lot...It's been really good, getting to know him, being on this side of the wall. It's been really smooth."
His father's release coincided with his final season at LSU, and Theotis was reportedly able to attend some of his son's final games as a Tiger. As Collins prepares for the approaching draft, he said his father's presence has helped him maintain his focus.
"[He] wants me to continue to keep doing great things [and] continue to stay focused...he's been really focusing on getting everything going for him. We've just kind of been motivating each other, so it's been all really good."
Collins chose to forego the NFL after his junior season to play a final year at LSU. A three-year starter, Collins was awarded the Jacobs Blocking Trophy for top offensive lineman in the SEC after a vote from the conference's coaches.
For Collins, the prospect of returning home as a New Orleans Saint next year is one he greets with enthusiasm.
"I couldn't even explain that, I don't think you can draw that up even better." he said. "So if they give me the opportunity to definitely come down there and play for the Saints, it would be, it would be big for me. I would be happy."
Collins played every offensive snap in nine of LSU's 13 games, helping the Tigers earn a 224.5 rushing yards per game average. At the NFL combine on Friday, Collins ran a 5.12 40-yard-dash, tied for third among offensive tackles.
The NFL draft is from April 30 to May 2 in Chicago.
- Christopher Woody