After Mallett, Processing Alex Collins’ Passing in Historically Cruel Offseason Even Harder

Ryan Mallett, Alex Collins, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

The tragic death of Alex Collins continues what has been a historically cruel offseason for Arkansas football.

Collins’ motorcycle accident follows Ryan Mallett’s drowning accident, incoming freshman Dion Stutt’s ATV accident, and Chris Smith’s untimely death in April. It’s surreal. It’s unusual for any program to suffer such a loss to young alumni, but to lose four in the span of a few months is absurd. That two of them, Collins and Mallett, were among the most popular players in program history, is nearly unfathomable.

Much like Mallett, Collins was an elite high school prospect who committed to Arkansas at a time when the program desperately needed a jolt of momentum. Bobby Petrino’s crash followed by the John L. Smith debacle made Arkansas a laughingstock to the college football world in 2012. There was excitement when Bret Bielema was finally hired, but enthusiasm skyrocketed when Bielema landed the commitment of the 5-star running back from south Florida.

Collins’ recruitment was hard-fought, as you would expect for a top prospect. Bielema would post pictures of ranch dressing or a statue of Buddha (his nickname and Twitter handle were Budda) on the site formerly known as Twitter to send not-so-coded messages to Collins. His commitment in February 2013 truly gave Hog fans the feeling that the 2012 disaster was behind us and better days were ahead.

Alex Collins’ Incredible Career

Despite the team’s frequent struggles in 2013 and ’14, Alex Collins was often a highlight. Sharing the backfield with Jonathan Williams, Arkansas’ running game seemed to keep the Hogs competitive in several close games before breaking through and winning the 2014 LSU game, which resulted in fans storming the field. It was a euphoric night, just as it was when fans stormed the field again after beating Texas seven years later.

All the pressure fell onto Collins in 2015 when Williams injured his foot in preseason camp. That was just a few years after Knile Davis was similarly injured in the preseason, and the Razorbacks’ running game struggled without Davis. Collins made sure history did not repeat itself. Collins had one of the best seasons by a running back in school history, delivering on all the hype that comes with his lofty 5-star status as a recruit. He scored a team record 20 touchdowns and tied a team record with 10 100-yard games. His 1,577 yards that season were the most by any non-McFadden back in school history.

When Arkansas enjoyed its 9-win season in 2021, there were many comments about the program getting out of a decade of darkness, as though the team had been awful since Petrino roamed the sidelines. It feels as though the 2015 season is often forgotten, but it shouldn’t be. Although that team stumbled through September, the Razorbacks were very good in October and November. They finished with a 5-3 SEC record, good for 3rd in the SEC West, and is still the last time Arkansas had a winning SEC record. That team had road wins over Tennessee, LSU and, of course, Ole Miss.

Many remember the 4th-and-25 play as the Henry Heave, but if Collins had not caught the ball cleanly and the frame of mind to run for the first down, that win never happens. In addition to being the most incredible play of one of Arkansas’ most incredible games, it kept Ole Miss from winning the SEC West, an achievement they still have yet to accomplish.

Alex Collins: More than an Arkansas Football Player

Alex Collins’ success on the field was only part of the reason he became a fan-favorite. He became a true ambassador for not just Razorback football, but Arkansas in general. Despite growing up far away from the Ozarks, he seemed to truly love being in Fayetteville. He was often out and about in town, mingling with fans. He even had an offseason job at the Catfish Hole at one point.

His Twitter profile still has Arkansas all over it, with “Forever a Razorback #WPS” in his bio, a picture of one of his three touchdowns in the Liberty Bowl against Kansas State – his final collegiate game, and his pinned tweet is his farewell to the program when he decided to turn professional. In 2014 he told the media, “I would love to retire here some time in the future because it’s just absolutely beautiful. It’s so welcoming here.”

The NFL seemed to be a roller coaster for Collins. When he was at his best, he charmed the league with his Irish dancing, which seemed to be a segment every broadcast team returned to in every game he started.

Had Alex Collins made it big in the pros, that dancing was the kind of thing that could have been made into a feature film as you would see on Hollywoodbets app. It only one of Collins’ skills, but it also was a good representation of him. He was fun to watch and fun to be around. Fans adored him. Razorback fans will long remember his long dreadlocks flowing in the air while he sprinted down the field.

As will quite a few folks in the NFL as well:

One of the two teams for which Collins played, the Baltimore Ravens, has also been hit by an especially cruel past year.

There was the passing of Ryan Mallett, of course, who briefly played alongside Collins in Baltimore. On top of that, former Ravens linebacker Jaylon Ferguson died in June 2022 at the age of 26 from the combined effects of fentanyl and cocaine, according to officials.

That same week, Baltimore Super Bowl winner Tony Siragusa died, reportedly in his sleep – at the age of 55. An autopsy report detailing the cause of death is pending.

It’s always bittersweet for fans when a player like Collins leaves college early for the NFL. However, fans can generally count on being able to continue having a relationship with the player for a long time to come. It’s common for great players of previous seasons to visit campus and get a nice ovation at some point during a game or get interviewed on the sidelines, or again greet fans at the Catfish Hole or on Dickson Street. That Collins, like Mallett and Smith, won’t get to do that any longer is truly heartbreaking.


YouTube video

More coverage of Arkansas football greats Alex Collins and Ryan Mallett from BoAS…

Facebook Comments