METAIRIE, La. – Jed Collins has found a home in the one NFL offense that on the surface would least likely need a full-time fullback.
Who would have thought, Collins included, that after six teams passed on him – Cleveland twice did – that he’d catch on with the New Orleans Saints, the NFL’s most-prolific passing offense.
“Every team says you get in the room and you have every chance to make the team,” Collins said during the opening week of the Saints’ 2012 training camp. “Down here they truly believe it. You look at the roster and they put it into action. I was given an opportunity last year to compete for the fullback and it’s just one of those right place, right times kind of thing.”
Collins, who entered the NFL in 2008 by signing as an undrafted rookie free agent with Philadelphia, won’t ever be mistaken with Pierre Thomas or Darren Sproles.
But he has found a place with the Saints, becoming a stone-walled lead blocker for those two, finding the first linebacker to pancake to the ground.
He's the brute force in the backfield to their light-footed, athletic running style.
While he doesn’t carry the popularity of Drew Brees or Mark Ingram, he has a vocal social media fan base, something he fully enjoys.
“I’m not going to get big touchdowns or big gains or get my name in the paper a lot, but it gives people a chance to kind of be my fan because of who I am, not just because of what I do,” he said. “It’s a chance for small-name guys to kind of step out and give themselves a personality.”
What they're attracted to is his workman-like, lunch-pail carrying style.This past Sunday, during one-on-one drills against the linebackers, Collins owned the players he went up against. He didn’t allow David Hawthorne near the tackling dummy and dominated Aaron Tevis.
The biggest thing for Collins this year is the confidence that has come from playing a part in the offense and being around the players consistently.
“Experience is his biggest thing,” offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said. “He was a little unknown for us when he got here. He kind of just kept proving himself, proving himself, proving himself and he proved himself to be the starter. He hasn’t looked back since.”
Added running backs coach Bret Ingalls, “He had a chance to play, did a good job for us. I think he came in with a lot more confidence. It’s a tough position because it’s physical and we demand a lot from him. When it’s time for him to turn it on, he’s a lot more confident.”
At 255 pounds, Collins is playing five pounds lighter this year than he did in 2011. He carried the ball four times last season, scoring touchdowns on two of the carries, and caught 11 passes, of which two were for scores.
Lighter and yet stronger, Collins knows he could play an even bigger roles this season.
“In this offense, the more athletic you are, you the more you are capable of doing,” Collins said. “They know I’m still going to be leading up in the holes and run-blocking, but if I get out and move around like a tight end and catch a couple of passes, I think that’s just going to benefit me. And being more in shape is just going to help me in the long run.”
Now heading into his second full season with the Saints, Collins still can’t believe his fortune.
It’s almost like his has to pinch himself on a daily basis.
“I tell myself every day when I dreamed this life it looked like I was really enjoying it,” Collins said. “Now that I’m living it, I don’t see any reason that that should change. I try to show the fans a little bit of who I am. I’m a fun, kind of goofy, weird kid. I’m living a fantasy so I’m just having fun with it.”