Anthony Mīc: I gotta ask you, why the hell did you cut your hair?
Jed Collins: (Laughs) Well, the hair was always kind of my alter ego. It was the image I was portraying as a football player. And I was told my first year or two in the league that I don't look tough enough, that I look like a spoiled kid, and I didn't fit the fullback mold. So I decided to let it go and be the character they wanted me to be. I was going to cut it last year, but we had our daughter on the way so I thought it would be funny to have her first pictures with dad wearing this long, shoulder-length hair. So I kept it for another year, and it was actually three years to the day that I went to the same salon and got it chopped off. My mom asked me if that was a subliminal message that this was the end of the "football" Jed. I didn't read that far into it, but subconsciously it might have been. Who knows?
AM: Has fatherhood changed you at all?
JC: Absolutely. Everyone says that [fatherhood] is life changing and that you'll never know until it happens. From the hospital when she was born, to this morning, it's just totally consuming in the most beautiful way. It's just a daily reminder of the beautiful gift that life is. Mostly it's continuing a legacy and that you're a part of something bigger than just yourself. It's humbling. And when you play a game for a living, especially a violent one, it definitely makes you start questioning the long-term repercussions of playing: seeing her go off to college or her wedding day, it gives you a different perspective.
AM: Talking about legacy...you got your daughter now, are there any hopes of having a boy?
JC: Yeah, absolutely. I come from a big family and (wife) Kira does too. Ironically, I wanted to start off with a girl and Kira was hoping for a boy, so I won this one. If I could have the ideal scenario, it would be girl-girl-boy. Be done with three or if we can afford it, four. But they say a daughter will steal your heart and she absolutely has. I do want to have a little buddy along the way, but I'm not the one carrying the baby or having to push 'em out. So that's not completely up to me.
AM: I was looking at your Wikipedia page. I didn't realize that you were with seven different teams in your first three seasons as an undrafted free agent. At any point, did you think, "Alright, maybe this isn't my calling."
JC: (Laughs) "Somebody's trying to tell me something here!" Absolutely. As an athlete, you try to portray this self-confidence and you have to believe in your skills. But when everyone is telling you the same thing, you start doubting it. I had moments where I thought about walking away. I had lots of conversations with Kira and my parents. Ultimately, it was conversations with my brothers where they told me real-world jobs will be waiting for me no matter how long I play. So there's really no rush to get into it. But my second year I was actually in a job interview - consequently I learned that you should always turn your phone off during an interview - but I got a call from the Arizona Cardinals to come in and try out. It always worked out that when I started questioning it, my foundation supported me enough to wait for that next phone call. Seven teams is incredible, but I was just lucky enough that the phone kept ringing. A lot of guys, it doesn't happen like that and they don't keep getting opportunities. It is devastating getting a phone call saying that they're going in a different direction, with none of it pertaining to you. But having the family support definitely helped.
AM: Did you go in to the NFL knowing that you'd be converted (from tight end) to fullback?
JC: Yeah I was told at my pro day that I wasn't going to play tight end in the NFL. I was too short and too slow. They [scouts] told me there was a possibility as a fullback, but that's a dying breed. So honestly it was a bit of a reality shock knowing that, going into the draft, I was a bit of a man without a home. No position really fit or suited to me. I realized I needed to start learning a new position and a new mentality. But it was really hard to enter as an undrafted guy and climb the ladder. You need so many reps to learn a position and I was starting at zero. So it was a big mountain to climb.
AM: Aside from strictly being on special teams, would you say that you play the most thankless position in professional football?
JC: Without a doubt. That title used to be held by offensive linemen. But that went away when a few years ago those guys started getting the big money. Everyone in interviews seems to mention success being attributed to the "big guys up front." And you know, part of the fullback fraternity is taking pride in that. Nobody's going to notice you, you're not going to get a game ball, and nobody who doesn't know the game is going to even realize you're out there. But there's a beauty in that because I don't ever have to be in the spotlight. Even now I'm struggling to say it's a thankless position because that brings attention to it. It's a tight-knit group.
AM: Makes it that much sweeter when you do get a touchdown and get to do the Conan puppet dance in the endzone. Don't think I didn't know exactly what you were doing there! As soon as you did that, I thought "Friggin' Jed. Leave it to Jed to pull that off."
JC: (Laughs) Yeah! I mean, you come to the sideline...does every coach hate it? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, you're still playing a game and having fun. And I appreciate you recognizing where that came from because a lot of guys didn't know what I was doing. But I thought it was funny.
AM: It was perfectly executed, and just so you.
JC: I'm not going to have many memorable moments, but that was definitely one.
AM: After being with all those teams in your first three seasons, what was it in New Orleans that made you think, "Okay, this feels a bit more permanent."?
JC: You know, it was the right place at the right time. You hear that a lot, but it's absolutely true. My first year there, I joined during the regular season and was on the practice squad. My second year there was the lockout year, so we didn't have an offseason. We go into training camp, and the coaches know me, but they don't know me. Practice squad guys don't really hit the starters during the regular season as hard or as much as they would during camp. But for the first 10 days of training camp, no free agents could practice because of the lockout. Since I was already signed, I was the only fullback on the roster. The rookie and the actual guy they brought in and paid couldn't practice so I was thrown in with the first string. The first couple days it was definitely a different atmosphere; having Drew Brees calling plays and running through them like he'd done it for a decade, and me being in my first starting huddle. But it was trial by fire. I went in, hit our first string SAM linebacker, and moved him back. Then I came back to the huddle, got a slap on the helmet from the starting right tackle, and I thought, "Alright, this is just the same game I've played since I was a kid." It was a coincidental opportunity where they had to use me as the starter for a handful of days, but it was something I never let go of.
AM: Is Steve Gleason the unofficial mayor of that city?
JC: He absolutely is. He's a son of New Orleans, marrying into a New Orleans family. It's remarkable seeing what he's able to do not only in that city but across the country. You know him as well as I do...he's a different breed. He's a light. He's a man's man. To have that control over his attitude, despite his condition, is one of the most admirable traits I've ever seen in someone. He's admired by that city for being the man he is today, the man he was when he played, and the man he'll continue to be. I'll never forget the first time I met him at practice. I went up to him and said "Hey, I'm Jed Collins. Go Cougs." That's all he needed to hear and I was already kind of accepted into his circle. It was very cool being able to follow in his footsteps as another Coug down in New Orleans. I believe I was accepted in the locker room a lot easier because of that.
AM: Has being a professional athlete given you the opportunity to bring to light any causes or charities you believe in?
JC: Definitely. Being in the NFL has given me tremendous opportunities. Down in New Orleans I got involved with the Special Olympics, which is dear to my heart because my sister participated in them for a long time. And that's a relationship I want to continue. But it's neat to see the young guys in the locker room, at 22 or 23 years old, who are given the world and actually do something great with it. And that's a level of maturity that goes unnoticed and unappreciated. I get involved with other guys' causes because I don't have a foundation myself, but the platform is definitely there to give back. So I try to be as involved as I can.
AM: Your relationship with your family, and especially your sister, is something I've always admired about you.
JC: And that's one of the greatest compliments someone could get, and I really do appreciate that. But Em (sister) is special in every sense of the word, but she will teach you more about yourself than you would ever like to know. She's the glue that holds the family together because we all have to have a hand in helping her. But she's given more to us than she'll ever know.
AM: What are your brothers up to by the way?
JC: Lenny is still an attorney down in Southern California and Jake's actually back in Southern California and he's an engineer. They both migrated back home.
AM: Wow, way to go, Collins boys...making everyone else look bad.
JC: (Laughs) My parents set a high bar.
AM: I know you're an accounting major...
AM: Do you feel like you'll get into the financial world after your playing days are through?
JC: I welcome all opportunities, but the last few off seasons I've been completing the certified financial planning exams. I've finished most of them, so all I have left is the all-encompassing certification test. Finance and accounting has always been an interest of mine because the more I understand it, the more I won't let it control my life. Going through different locker rooms in the league and hearing different stories has really shaped me and how I look at money. So once I step into life after football, I really want to find a way to help former athletes. I know that sounds like I really want to stay a part of athletics but that's not what I want to do. I want to teach these guys about the jump-start they have, how to budget, and how to prepare for the 40 years they'll be retired as opposed to the four years they're going to be playing. Education in finance is definitely underutilized in the league. You get these big checks and you get caught up in "the life". The guy next to you is getting paid millions and buying these shoes and buying that car. There's no real understanding of what money is. That's the frontier I want to start digesting and teaching guys that it is great, but to make it life-changing you have to start utilizing it today. And by that I mean saving it. It will definitely be a huge challenge, but that's ultimately what I see myself doing.
AM: I feel like money is so misunderstood, even when you're making tons of it.
JC: The thing is, these guys are making tons of it in such a short period of time. And look, we discussed earlier how rewarding philanthropy can be. You hear stories about guys spending $20,000 because their family never had a Christmas before. And they start flying in their brothers and sisters, and get a tree and presents. That's a beautiful thing. Or these guys give $50,000 to their old school to help build a library. Also a beautiful thing. But if you're not able to do that 10 years from now, that's a problem. It's a selfless move, but at some point you need to be somewhat selfish with your money to be able to give long-term. That's a goal of mine, to help some of these guys maintain so that they can give and be comfortable long after they're done playing.
AM: I feel like when we played at WSU, you were always happy-go-lucky. But something's happened to you in the league. It seems like you have a bit more of a fire in your belly.
JC: The game is fun. Football is fun. But when I became a fullback, some of the fun got replaced with punishment; both for me and for my opposition. So I had to take more of a serious mentality to each game. You have to find that - not "dark place" - but the hunger that's willing to push through the pain you experience every game throughout the long season.
AM: Who would win in a fight: Ndamukong Suh or The Incredible Hulk?
JC: Suh. Because the Hulk has to go back to being a normal man. I don't believe Suh has a normal man within him. He's just always an angry monster.
AM: Good friggin point. Okay last one. I know you're a huge movie buff, so what's your top 5?
JC: Man that's really hard. I'll have to go with:
1. "Maverick" with Mel Gibson
2. "Bad Boys II"
3. "The Sound of Music"
5. It's a tie between "Bio-Dome" and "Anchorman"
AM: "The Sound of Music"?
JC: That's serious. I probably know all the lines to that movie. That's because of my sister. She'd play it all the time.
AM: Julie Andrews was definitely easy on the eyes.
JC: Yeah. And that's back in the day when they probably weren't doing two hours of makeup. I bet she did it herself for 10 minutes and just went out there.