In a freak accident, Collins, a 6-foot-8, 300-pound offensive tackle from Kernersville (N.C.) East Forsyth, broke his pinky toe shortly after his football season concluded.
"One night on the weekend I was just walking and I hit a door jam a weird way," Collins said. "It wasn't even hard. I bumped my foot and felt my pinky toe just snap.
"About three days later, I'm running and my foot completely gives out on me."
The incident forced Collins to visit his family doctor, where an X-ray showed that he not only had a broken toe but a stress fracture. He went on to see local orthopedic specialist Michael King, as well as UNC's William Taft.
Doctors estimate that Collins' stress fracture occurred two to three weeks prior to breaking his toe.
"They said from enough weight from lifting and squatting [the bone] could have given away or it could have been just over time," Collins said. "They said that bone is so small that anyone that plays sports is at risk of breaking it."
Collins' foot was in a cast for two and a half weeks. He then sported a boot for the remaining three and a half weeks.
Thus for six weeks total Collins couldn't work out any of his lower body, though he was permitted to swim and ride a bike on a limited basis for the final two weeks.
"I did everything possible to work around the situation," Collins said. "… I did everything doctors told me to, to help it heal the fastest way possible.
"But I consistently kept doing upper body workouts. I know I made a lot of strides in my upper body." Since being cleared to workout, Collins has followed the regimen assigned to him by Jeff Connors, UNC's strength and conditioning coach. He is also doing footwork drills with his high school coach, Todd Willert.
Unable to run for six weeks, Collins has put on ten pounds since the football season.
"Basically, [the UNC coaches] haven't said anything about weight, just to come in the best shape that I can," Collins said. "Personally, my target weight is to get back down to 290."
Collins says he speaks to Sam Pittman, UNC's offensive line coach, two to three times a week. He also speaks regularly to former UNC assistant coach Steve Hagen.
"I try to keep up with [Hagen] at least once every two weeks, just because he and I struck up a great relationship while he was recruiting me," Collins said. "It's also great to talk to somebody on the next level."
Collins fully expects to red-shirt his freshman season.
"Coach Pitt said, ‘You're pretty much going to be red-shirted, but come in with the mindset – play, practice, run – like you want to start,'" Collins said. "And that's how I'm going to take it."
Pittman and Collins have briefly talked about jersey numbers, but they haven't settled on a particular digit.
"[No.] 79 is the number I'd love to have," Collins said. "It's been the number I've always wanted. But then [in high school] I got [No.] 64, so I just kept 64. But 79 and 75 were the two numbers I really want – definitely 79 would be the one I'd love to have.
"But I just want to play. Put a jersey on my back and let me play."
Former Oakland Raider Mo Collins, who sported No. 79, was Collins' favorite offensive lineman growing up.
Collins, who is academically qualified, will arrive on campus on June 15. He had planned to room with Hunter Furr, but those plans have changed
"Some stuff came up with him having to play special teams," Collins said. "So he has to room with Shane Mularkey."