The decision to opt out and receive a cash advance from his agent cost Nico Collins the opportunity to play at Michigan in 2020.
The Wolverines’ star wide receiver opted out of the shortened season last fall, after the Big Ten Conference announced plans to eliminate fall sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Collins quickly made the decision, privately, to begin preparing for the NFL draft and signed with Rosenhaus Sports, led by high-profile agent Drew Rosenhaus.
“Opting out gave me time to focus on the things I needed to improve my game,” Collins told reporters Wednesday, before a pro-day event scheduled Friday in Ann Arbor. “I really self-assessed my way of playing since last year. Just studying the things that I felt I needed to improve. So that’s really what I worked on while excluding myself. That gave me a couple of months to really focus on the things that I really needed to improve on, and that’s what I did. “
In an October interview with ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Collins called the decision to exclude himself from the shortened 2020 season a “business decision,” citing “too much known facts” about why he hung up.
But after the Big Ten reversed course and set a schedule of nine games each time beginning in late October, Collins said he was interested in returning.
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His teammate and offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield did, after announcing plans in August to plead for the NFL draft.
However, Collins’ situation was a bit different, he says, as he accepted a marketing advance from Rosenhaus Sports, effectively eliminating his college eligibility. The NCAA prohibits any student-athlete from accepting money from professional agents and teams.
“Once they said they were going to have a season again, there was no way it would go back,” Collins said. “The NCAA was not going to allow me what I accepted. It was too far. But yes, thoughts of my return, I wanted to return, for sure. Because I came back for my senior year. I wanted to go back. So, yes, he planned to return. There was just no way he was going back. “
In September, Michigan wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis took to social media to express his frustration at the penalties players face for declaring for the NFL draft and accepting money from agents.
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On Twitter, Gattis wrote: “Players who chose not to prepare for the NFL should be reinstated without penalty, regardless of what they accepted. It’s not a competitive advantage. “Gattis went on to say that agents offering money, such as cash advances,” show they don’t have a post-NFL plan for you!
Collins said he spent the fall losing weight (he weighs 217 pounds, he says) and working on his running route. The Birmingham, Alabama native accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl in January and participated in a week of practices and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts, his first live football in more than a year.
“That week, I knew it was time to go out and show everyone what I had been up to,” Collins said. “Because I chose not to participate, I knew it was my only chance to do everything.”
In three seasons at Michigan, Collins caught 78 passes for 1,388 yards and 22 touchdowns, with most of his production in 2018 and 2019. He was twice honored in the Big Ten and imagined he would be the number one choice for the Wolverines in 2020.
As he currently stands, Collins is a projected second- or third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, populated by another class of deep (and talented) wide receivers. He’s a great physical receiver and praised for having good hands and a great reception radius, all good traits to take to the next level.
“(There are) a lot of great receivers coming out of this kind of draft,” Collins said. “I feel like we all have different assets when it comes to football, when it comes to the game. You have some that are short, fast; you have some who play big and physical. I feel like my game, I’m a great physical receiver. I like to play big. “
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