Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
METAIRIE, La. – By Jed Collins’ count, he has been shown the door 12 times the past four years at NFL facilities.
Now he’s hoping the 13th one opened, which is with the Saints, will be his final stop.
But Collins plays the one position that continues its descent to being out of vogue – NFL fullback – and he realizes that his journey might not be finished.
“There’s only one spot on every team,” Collins said. “If you’re not that guy, you’re searching for a window or something to be open because the door shuts real quickly. I’ve had a lot of teammates, a lot of coaches tell me I could play in this league.
“It’s just taken some self-discipline and just trying to get confidence back in myself to keep on keeping on and keep on trying and keep on striving for the ultimate dream of making a team.”
He might just have found his landing spot after spending time with Cleveland, Arizona, Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Tennessee.
Collins, a 6-foot-1, 255-pound mass of athleticism, has spent much of training camp with the first team after spending 2010 on the Saints’ practice squad.
And he’s doing whatever he can to stick around, be it sticking his shoulder into a defensive linemen, his head into a linebacker or his brain into the minds of quarterbacks Drew Brees, Chase Daniel or Sean Canfield.
He spent much of this summer going through the workouts at Tulane, taking the chance of injury over the chance of falling behind.
“Hanging around guys that know the system so well, always asking questions, always wanting to know the next answer, the next read, made my progression this preseason that much easier,” Collins said. “Being able to talk to those guys and ask them what they’re seeing, I like to understand the whole concept of plays. It slows things down to understand what everybody else is doing.”
So far, so good.
Collins has found a way to make an impression on the two most important men in the Saints facility these days – Brees and coach Sean Payton.
“We’ve brought in other fullbacks to compete and I think he’s risen to the occasion and taking advantage of every opportunity he’s been given,” Brees said. “You’re happy for guys like that who work hard and do the right things. If he continues to progress at the level he’s progressing, I think the future is bright for him.”
Added Payton, “I think as the season went on last year and as he was on the practice squad, he did some real good things against our defense. We began to see someone who was physical and that was encouraging. That has continued. His growth has been right in front of us and he has done well.”
For much of last season, Collins took the opportunity to learn from former Saint Heath Evans, a 10-year professional who was always known for his diagnosis of the opposing defense and a quality blocking fullback.
Evans showed the youngster the intricacies of the fullback position, Collins said, something that’s helping him compete right now with Korey Hall, who was the first non-Saints free agent signed by the team this offseason.
“He was great to me in taking me under his wing, showing me a lot of reads and a lot of little things that people really discredit the fullback position for – how to understand defenses and where guys are going to go before they go there,” Collins said.
For a guy like Collins, it can come down to what he can do in total. He’s on several special teams units, so that helps.
But it’s how he plays the game, and what he’s willing to do, that will likely earn him a spot on the roster.
“They’re looking for a fullback to be able to move some guys and open up this stable of a backfield they have now,” Collins said. “I kind of present someone who is not afraid to go in and hit some linebackers and hit some d-ends. If that’s what they want me to do, that’s what I’m going to do and do it every day.
“If that gets me a job on the team that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”