By Joe Fortenbaugh and Wes Bunting:
You can’t help but smile when you’re talking to Nate Collins.
The 22-year-old defensive tackle from Virginia is a laid-back guy with a great sense of humor. Just check out his Twitter account and you’ll get updates on everything from New England road trips to shout-outs to Tweets like this: “Do hot cakes really sell?”
“Right now, I’m a huge fan of Twitter,” Collins told us during a recent podcast when asked what he likes to do in his free time.
But don’t confuse his relaxed, off-the-field attitude with softness or weakness. When this guy gets hold of you on the field, you’ll find out quickly that you’ve got a big problem on your hands.
The 6-2, 290-pound Collins was named first-team All-ACC by the Associated Press in 2009 after recording 76 stops (44 solo), six sacks, one interception and one touchdown for the 3-9 Cavaliers. A four-year letter winner at Virginia, Collins was named ACC defensive player of the week after his 16-tackle outburst in a 34-9 loss against Georgia Tech — a game that came one week after one of Collins’ most memorable collegiate performances.
The Cavaliers only won three games last season, but Collins delivered in a big way in a 20-9 victory over Maryland on Oct. 17 when — in addition to racking up nine tackles and a sack — he intercepted a pass and took it to the house for a 32-yard touchdown.
“That’s the best feeling in the world when everyone’s looking at you and you’re in the end zone and you have the ball in your hands,” he said.
Virginia was trailing 9-6 late in the third quarter when Collins made his move, putting the Cavaliers up for good and sending the team to its third win of the year.
When asked about scoring his only college touchdown, Collins laughed and simply said, “I hope to have a few more of those in my future.”
It’s Collins’ combination of size, power and tenacity that led to not only a variety of accolades at Virginia but some serious interest from teams at the next level that wanted to take a closer look at the defensive tackle.
The big man’s been busy going through the draft process as of late, working out and meeting with teams such as the New York Giants, Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was impressed enough with Collins’ athleticism during a recent workout to put him through linebacker drills in addition to working him out at defensive tackle.
“When I was done doing D-tackle drills, Tom Coughlin walked over and said, ‘You all right? Do you mind doing linebacker drills?’ And I was like, ‘Let’s go.’”
That’s the attitude you want to see from a guy who could be on your roster next season — especially with the draft kicking off one week from today.
“Everyone stay tuned,” Collins told us at the end of the podcast. “I’m getting ready to make moves.”
Follow Big Nate on Twitter: @BIGN98