Collins Moore was literally "fooling around" in practice not too long ago catching punts while waiting on wide receiver drills to start.
No big deal, just doing it for the fun of it since he used to return punts at Bob Jones High School in Madison, AL.
"I went over to the wide receivers and was stretching, laying on my back when a punt came right at me. I reached up and caught it while on my back," he smiled.
Pure fluke. Not the catching of the ball, Collins has always had great hands, but that a punt came to him perfectly while he was in a horizontal position.
Meanwhile, punt return was struggling. Bad decisions, fumbles, etc., had dictated a change from Carlos Davis prior to the Memphis game.
Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze had stated the Monday before the game in Memphis that Markell Pack, who returned punts last year when Davis was out with a knee injury, and Trae Elston would vie for the job, but when Memphis lined up for their first punt, #16, Moore, trotted on teh field and was deep to receive the kick.
"After I caught that punt when I was laying down, the coaches came to me and asked me to catch a few punts. I didn't miss any and really caught them all pretty naturally. After that, I was asked to come back after practice and field some more. It just went from there," he stated. "I was glad to get the chance because I wasn't getting many reps at wideout."
Moore knows the importance of the punt returner.
"It starts the offense. It's important for field position and to make hidden yards," he noted. "You have to make good decisions under pressure and I feel I'm good at that."
It's not just going out there and catching a punt either.
"I study the opposing punter, what they like to do from different positions on the field, what he's averaging and what kind of schemes their coverage units are using," he stated. "It's about catching the ball, number one, and making the right decisions, number two, based on the situation and the information we have going into the game. I'm not making it out to be more complicated than it is, but it's more than just dropping back 40 yards and catching the ball, especially with all the different types of punts punters are using these days."
This is a sweet gig for Collins because it was looking as if he may not gert much action the rest of his career due to the residul affects of many surgeries the last three years. In 2012, he played in four games before dislocating both shoulders and having to have double shoulder surgery in the span of a year. In 2014, he missed the entire season due to knee surgery.
"I'm just glad to be able to contribute. I thought I handled those setbacks well - I went ahead and got my degree in exercise science and am considering grad school," he explained.
After this season, Collins is going to apply for a sixth year of eligibility. What's his motivation for that? Simple - love.
"Football is what I love doing and I am going to do it as long as I can," he closed, "and now that I have found a new responsibility, a way to legitimately contribute to my team with an important role, I'm just that much more motivated."
Meanwhile, for the rest of this year at least, it looks as the punt return issues have finally been solved thanks to Collins Moore and his fluke catch while laying on his back.
Finally for the team.
Finally for Collins Moore.