Just one day after Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed that wide receiver Nico Collins is no longer on the team, the dangerous downfield pass catcher found himself on The Adam Schefter Podcast and opened up about his decision to leave U-M.
"I came back for my senior season," Collins said on Tuesday. "Everything was going smooth, just as planned until this virus outbreak. The one thing that really impacted my decision was when we were supposed to play September 5th against Purdue so during that camp process, then they canceled the season. That was heartbreaking for me because I wasn't sure when the next time it was safe [to play]. They were saying in the spring, Thanksgiving, there were too many unknown questions to answer. Nobody really had an answer to it, so I sat down with my family and I just made a business decision."
Collins has been at the throes of a long and sordid timeline, one that started with the Big Ten initially releasing a 10-game schedule on Aug. 5. Just six days later, the conference went back on those plans and canceled the 2020 season amid COVID-19 concerns. Fast forward to Sept. 16, and that's when Wolverine Digest's Michael Spath reported that Nico Collins would be opting out-- and that also happens to be the same day that the Big Ten announced it would be playing this fall.
Talk about a rollercoaster ride for the former U-M receiver.
"I kind of felt like I was just in no man's land for a minute because I came back to play my senior season and they cancelled it maybe three weeks before we played Purdue, September 5th," Collins said. "It was supposed to be a home game. I had that marked on my calendar. Once they cancelled that and they said they weren't sure when the next time we'd have a season [was]. They were saying towards the spring, and it was kind of the time, that's training. That's where I get prepared for the draft around December, January and after the bowl game. That was kind of what they were saying, trying to push towards spring a little bit. So, I really just sat down with my family. I just really had a business decision, so I really appreciate my family helping me out with that."
While his former team is gearing up to play Minnesota this weekend, Collins is positioned down in Pensacola, Florida where he is working out and preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft with his family. However, Collins did confirm that he'll be tuned in and watching the Wolverines play in primetime on Oct. 24, and he has a few U-M players that he expects to grab a piece of the spotlight.
"I feel like Joe Milton, he's the starting quarterback now, and I feel like he's going to put the offense on his back, and I feel like he's going to lead the offense in the right way," Collins said. "He's going to lead everybody down the right path. Then on defense, you've got Kwity Paye. You've got Aidan [Hutchinson]. You've got Josh Ross, those guys on defense. Those captains. They are going to push the defense. They are going to lead with good advice for the young guys. They are going to leave it out there Saturday.
"The team is very special. It will be reloaded, and I feel like the team has something to prove and I feel like they're going to prove everybody wrong," Collins said. "I feel like everybody has a chip on their shoulder, and they're going to go out there Saturday and just ball out."
When the football is kicked off for Michigan on Saturday night, Collins said it will be a "bittersweet" moment because he'd prefer to be out there playing with his former teammates. The big play receiver will likely mentally play back his decision making process to get to that point too, one that he said included a time when he considered opting back in to rejoin the Michigan squad.
"I talked with Ambry [Thomas] and Jalen [Mayfield]," Collins said. "They were just doing what's best for them. I was supporting Jalen going back in, opting back in. I'm rooting for him, so hopefully everything goes well and wishing for the best."
One of those players, Thomas, is also preparing for the upcoming draft, while the other, Mayfield, is focused on thwarting the Minnesota pass rush and keeping Milton's pocket clean on Saturday night.
Which round in the NFL Draft do you think Collins will be selected in? Do you think he'd have improved his draft stock by staying and playing this season? Let us know!