Thunder Collins' career has been one of ups and downs. A big play back with enormous potential that seems for whatever myriad of circumstances to find himself not realizing that potential. A JUCO transfer from California, Collins' career has been spotted. Mostly, having to do with academic concerns, compliance dept. miscues and most recently, a variety of speculations as to some questionable off the field incidents.
Whether all that has been a culmination into what we have been seeing now it's unsure, but Thunder's absence had everyone wondering what was going on. One thing is for sure though, his status as a Husker was tenuous at best. "We have really not had contact with Thunder Collins since the weekend." Solich stated. "Thunder has missed practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We are assuming that he has quit the team and is no longer part of the team."
Those speculations were answered tonight as KLKN's Matt Kelly reported on a prepared letter specifically for KLKN that Collins had issued, explaining why he indeed decided to call it quits. This is that following statement:
"First of all, I would like to say that I appreciate the opportunity to play for a great program with a great tradition and a great coaching staff. I wish the Husker team and my former teammates the best of luck during the remainder of the season."
"My decision to leave the football team is in no way related to football. Most Husker fans don't know that I am responsible for taking care of my 17 year old brother that lives with me here in Lincoln. Together, the two of us have been living on my scholarship checks of $404.00. Because of my situation with the NCAA, my scholarship checks have been reduced to $199.03 per month for the remainder of my collegiate career."
"I take full responsibility for my actions that led to my suspension and I had every intention of serving my suspension, returning to the program and working my way back up the depth chart."
"I returned to practice to prepare for the McNeese State game and had no problems practicing on the scout team, something I had never done in my years here in the program. My plan of earning my way back up the depth chart became increasingly more difficult as I had to decide which bills to pay and which ones I could not pay and still provide for my family."
"Because I am a scholarship athlete, I am unable to get a job to earn money to help my family nor am I allowed to accept gifts or benefits from outside sources. I realize that many people would love to be in my situation, but I must put my family first and continue my role as a care giver for my younger brother and put my football career on hold until a later time in the future."
Tonight, Matt Kelly also had a chance to sit down with Thunder and get (in his own words) his take on the situation and why he left. "I just want them to know that I don't want them to remember Thunder Collins as a quitter." Collins stated to Matt Kelly. "I am not quitting on my family and I feel right now that my family needs me more than football. I will continue to play football, but just not right now."
The decision was obviously difficult for Collins and he commented on just how seclusive he had became over the last three days, debating on his current situation. "It was real tough." Collins stated. "I kind of enclosed myself the last three days. I haven't really talked to anybody about it. I didn't even let my mom know. That's how hard it was. I really love football, but family is first."
Concerning the NCAA violations that led at least in some part to this departure, Collins wouldn't go into specifics, but did want to state that he complied with the rules, but not because he was guilty of what he was accused. "To set the record straight, I never received any stereo equipment from the woman at all. I felt that I shouldn't have been suspended for the three extra games, but that's what happened and I have to take responsibility for it and that's what I did."
While this puts to rest the whereabouts of Collins, it hardly puts to rest just what will happen in the future for this Nebraska I-back. Collins did not state whether he would continue to reside within the state or not, but it's quite obvious that his career as a Husker is over.
While Solich's comments came prior to this statement, one thing about the sentiment towards Thunder seemed clear. "He [Thunder] has kept a very good attitude through it all." Solich stated. He's always had a good attitude on the practice field. Thunder is a very likeable guy, but when things don't go your way, things can become very difficult for you to just get by with regularity in what you normally do."
It would appear that "getting by" is what Thunder is trying to do, but in this particular instance, it has nothing to do with football.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-476-4715