Next of Kin?

Just when you thought you’d seen the last of the football-playing Collins family from New Jersey at Penn State, along comes second cousin Dajuane. The star running back, who is related to the five brothers who played for Joe Paterno from 1986-97, is considering the Nittany Lions.

Penn State commitments Justin King and Derrick Williams are working hard to lure other prospects to the Nittany Lions. But Deptford (N.J.) Township running back Dajuane Collins (5-11, 187) has someone else with blue and white in their blood telling him about the joys of being a Penn Stater.

His second cousin, Andre Collins, has been pulling on the teen-ager’s heartstrings. Dajuane returned home Tuesday after spending a few days in Washington, D.C., with the former Nittany Lion and NFL standout.

An All-American linebacker at PSU, Andre competed in the NFL for a decade. He played for Washington (1990-94), Cincinnati (1995-97) and Chicago (1998-99). Andre is now director of the Retired Players Association for the NFL.

“It was great getting to spend time with Andre, we’re pretty close,” Dajuane Collins said. “He tries to sell Penn State to me, but I know he’ll support me no matter what I do.”

Andre was not the only member of the Collins family to make a name for himself at Penn State. Brothers Gerry, Phil, Jason, and Aaron all played for the Nittany Lions. Aaron was a multiyear starter who later toiled on a few NFL practice squads, while the other brothers were all solid contributors to the Nittany Lion dynasty.

Dajuane Collins estimates he has between 40-50 written scholarship offers, with only a handful being D-I AA schools. He has managed to pare his list down to three schools: Penn State, Toledo and Minnesota. Collins has already visited Toledo (Dec. 10) and Minnesota (Dec. 17). The Nittany Lions will host the talented young athlete Jan. 14.

“I’m looking forward to my visit to Penn State,” Collins said. “I talk to [PSU verbal and New Jersey native] Anthony Scirrotto a lot, he lives pretty close to me. Anthony has nothing but good things to say about Penn State.”

A few months ago, when we first spoke to Dajuane, he was not enthusiastic about the prospects of potentially playing for Penn State. So why the sudden change of heart?

“After I came back from Toledo, Joe Paterno came to my school that Tuesday, and then to my house that evening,” Collins said. “It was awesome walking down the halls with him. Everyone wanted to come up to him and shake his hand and meet him.”

Collins was recently named Associated Press first-team All-State after rushing for 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior. As a safety, he registered 70 tackles and five interceptions.

A quick Q-and-A with Collins:

BL: What did Paterno say that changed your mind?

DC: It was not one thing that he said, it was just the feeling I got. The more I talked to him the more interested I became.

BL: Have you paid much attention to Penn State’s recruiting efforts, and have they impressed you?

DC: I have seen what they’ve been doing and it’s great. Recruiting hasn’t been as strong recently. Now they are getting some playmakers in there.

BL: So when can people expect to hear your decision?

DC: I’ll decide when I come back from Penn State.

BL: Where does Penn State want you to play [he has received offers from other schools to play offense and defense]?

DC: They originally wanted me as a safety, now they are saying running back.

BL: Do you have a preference?

DC: Whatever gets me on the field the fastest, and helps the team win games.

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