Nick Collins is congratulated by another #36 of Packers fame – Leroy Butler.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph
#10 – Nick Collins
If you don’t remember Nick Collins, I feel sorry for you; while he wasn’t quite legendary and didn’t play that long, he was such an exciting player for the Packers in his seven seasons (95 games; 2005-11).
Collins made 479 tackles, had 67 pass defenses, 6 forced fumbles and 21 INTs across those seven seasons (though it was basically six because of his abbreviated 2011 season).
Jan 5, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers former player Nick Collins during player announcements prior to the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. San Francisco won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
His abilities extend beyond those simple stats, however.
The most exciting memories of Collins have to be centered around his ability to make game-changing plays.
From 2008-10 (which includes the 2010 Super Bowl-winning team), Collins collected 17 INTs (including leading the league with seven in 2008) and four fumble recoveries; for the non-math-lovers out there, that’s 21 turnovers forced in three years (and that doesn’t include any of his postseason work either).
He didn’t stop with just forcing the turnovers; he was always looking to make something happen afterward.
During his career he compiled 507 INT-return yards, including one year (2008) where he garnered a team-record 295 INT-return yards.
He also had four career INT-return TDs (including three during that excellent 2008 season). His streak of four straight games with INTs is also the second-most in Packers history.
It is a shame that his career had to end so suddenly with an early-season spinal injury in 2011; that injury had such a widespread impact.
First off, it ended his career; he never played another snap. That cut short what could have been the type of career that set him possibly right atop this entire list (yes, he was really that good).
That also removed him from what ended up being a pretty terrible defense for that 2011 season; that team was carried exclusively by Aaron Rodgers and the passing game to a 15-1 season that ultimately ended in a blowout vsersus the Giants in the playoffs.
While it may well have still continued to be bad even with him in the lineup, his abilities could have shored things up enough to prevent some of the breakdowns in coverage that forced Green Bay to light up the scoreboard for any chance at winning.
Beyond just that season, his absence led the safety position to slowly become the most notable weakness on defense over the next couple of years and force Green Bay to spend tons of assets in trying to find their next serviceable player at a spot that should’ve been set for most of this decade.
It is a cliche to say that football is a game of inches, but here is a literal example of how catastrophic the future can become off of a few of them in the wrong direction.
Had Collins’ head been slightly lower, he would never have been contacted on that career-ending play and been able to keep playing. Had that been the case, he may still be performing highlight-reel plays for a Green Bay team that won another Super Bowl or two and became discussed as the next great NFL dynasty.
Unfortunately for him and all of us connected to this team, that just isn’t the case.