GREEN BAY – During the week of Super Bowl XLV, Packers safety Nick Collins was getting a little perturbed that the hordes of reporters were ignoring him.
“No one came to my table,” Collins said Saturday afternoon, just a few hours before being officially inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. “All the media just walked by, and I was like, well shoot, I thought I was pretty good. So I’m mad, I’m angry.
“I said, in order to make my name in this National Football League, I have to make a play in the Super Bowl, and I had my opportunity.”
That he did, returning a Ben Roethlisberger interception 37 yards for the Packers’ second touchdown of the game in a 31-25 victory over the Steelers.
It’s the play Collins will forever be remembered for, though he suggested another ranks right up there for him. Earlier in 2010, he intercepted former teammate Brett Favre when Favre was quarterbacking the Vikings.
Nonetheless, the image of Collins on his knees in the Cowboys Stadium end zone with his arms and the ball raised overhead is as iconic as it gets.
“It took so long,” Collins said of Roethlisberger’s throw, which fluttered a bit thanks to defensive lineman Howard Green getting a piece of the Pittsburgh QB’s arm. “That was the longest ball ever in the air.
“I’m like, please don’t drop it, please don’t drop it. Yes, I’ve got it, OK. Let’s go, and I made a couple moves to get into the end zone. That moment, it was just unreal.”
Equally unreal was that Collins would only play two more NFL games. In Week 2 of the 2011 season, a neck injury in Carolina turned out to be career-ending.
In the intervening five years, Collins has turned his attention to raising five children. His presenter Saturday night, former teammate Charles Woodson, called him “an outstanding husband and father,” and said his family is “what keeps Nick going.”
Many close to Collins in Green Bay, including Head Coach Mike McCarthy, believe his career was headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Woodson agrees “without question.” During Collins’ prime years, in which he was named to three consecutive Pro Bowls (2008-10), Woodson said the two most-talked-about safeties in the league were Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu and Baltimore’s Ed Reed.
Not only did I get the chance to watch Nick, but I actually played alongside him, and without a doubt, Nick was right there in that conversation with those guys,” said Woodson, who just concluded his own Hall of Fame career last season.
Woodson arrived in Green Bay as a free agent in 2006, Collins’ second year, and it didn’t take all that long for the two to become close friends, though it didn’t happen immediately.
“I’m young, trying to figure my way. He’s a veteran, and he knows the game,” Collins said. “One particular game, we kind of bumped heads, but after that, it was like getting in a fight with your brother, and you make up the next day.
“From that point, basically we were thinking alike. He taught me a lot, how to study the game, understand the game.”
Collins declined to share the stories he was planning to tell during his speech later Saturday night, but he reiterated how much he appreciated the early guidance Woodson provided in his career.
It was cut too short, but Collins is “at peace” with that now.
“If there’s no Canton, this is the best place to go into a hall of fame, here in Green Bay,” he said.
“I’m just grateful I had a chance to play all of my years here, and I wouldn’t change it for nothing. I have no regrets.”
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