Playing just a stone’s throw off I-55, which cuts through the Delta and serves as the lifeblood between Memphis and the better part of the Magnolia State, one wonders how Jalen Collins – a cornerback with rare size and seemingly unmistakable talent – could go without phone calls from the likes of Memphis and Ole Miss.
When Collins thinks about his junior season he remembers the good and bad, the latter of the two emotions that forced him out and towards the cross-town school in the end. The good was reflecting upon a 3-1 start where the team topped Westwood-Memphis 63-0 and Cordova (Tenn.) 35-6. Then things went south, seeing his DeSoto Central team drop all seven of their final games – a stretch that included three shutout losses to Tupelo, Southaven and South Panola to close the year.
Without much to show from the Jaguars 3-8 finish, Collins was left high and dry headed into the most crucial time for high school recruits.
“It was just one of those things where we didn’t play well, and then there were some issues with the coaches where I just wasn’t comfortable anymore,” Collins said. “That all played into me moving schools and coming over to Olive Branch. It’s just 15 minutes up the road, but I am in a better place. I’ll have a lot more exposure and be in a really good football environment.”
Ranked No. 3 in the Dandy Dozen, Olive Branch opened their season in a matchup with Memphis-East. On his first night as a Conquistador, Collins flashed much of the same talent that landed him a scholarship – his first – from the LSU staff.
First came an interception in the opening quarter that Collins returned 50 yards for a touchdown. When the opposition changed quarterbacks later in the half, Collins took another pick to the house, though the six points was taken back by a penalty on the return.
Later in the game, Collins pulled off the hat trick.
“I had about a 70-yard return and then got pushed out at the five (yard line),” he said. “It was the first game and I was in a new defense, so it felt great. It all went smooth. I even feel a little more experienced than the rest of the guys, because the team is mainly juniors.”
There isn’t a question of if the attention from colleges will come for the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, but the debate becomes when.
For Collins, it’s not something he will lose sleep over.
“I don’t really think there’s a situation where I would want to switch away from LSU,” he said. “I’m glad that they were the first team to show serious interest, and I’m glad that I made the decision and got things out of the way. That’s the way I was hoping things would happen, and there’s no reason to change things up.”