Collins Hopeful That Versatility Pays Off

It's been a long four years away from home for Conredge Collins, so the former Pitt fullback is spending some time with family and friends in Miami, but where he'll end up moving after this week is a mystery.

Conredge Collins, like many former college football players, await their fate today and tomorrow with the NFL Draft. Collins' agent Steve Tanzilli, who also works with Willie Parker and James Harrison from the Steelers, has told Collins that he could get drafted as highly as the fifth round or sometime later during Sunday's rounds.

Collins is rated among the top five fullbacks in this year's draft, a testament to his development at Pittsburgh, but that might not be high enough to get drafted since few NFL teams -- if any -- draft a true fullback or even use one. Collins is hopeful nonetheless.

"I believe I had a positive workout for the scouts, based on what I did and what they said to me,'' Collins said. "There were a lot of teams at our Pro Day to watch Shady, and maybe that worked in my favor. I'd like to think I showed them a lot, but we'll see what happens when the draft gets going.

"I ran a 4.58, my fastest time, and that's not too bad. I had 24 reps with my bench press, more than anybody there, and that's all right. So, I tested pretty well, and I did well with the football aspect. I'm being looked at as both a running back and fullback, and some teams are interested in both.''

Collins' attitude, like it was throughout his career at Pitt, is that he'll do whatever it takes for the team. So, he'll play either fullback or running back, but he would be solid in a one-back set or as an up-back in a pro-style scheme. With the Panthers, Collins came in as a running back-linebacker prospect, although he wanted to stay on offense, and did so as a fullback.

Some believe Collins' time was wasted at Pitt. He played too much as a freshman to get redshirted, but only had eight carries for 25 yards and no touchdowns. Collins tallied just 83 carries for 310 yards and two touchdowns the final three seasons combined. He also had 37 catches for 338 yards and three scores in his career, and he became a devastating blocker.

Collins ran for more than 1,300 yards and 21 touchdowns as a high school senior and finally came to Pitt after other recruiting avenues didn't work out.

"But you can't forget where you come from,'' Collins said. "That's for sure. So, I'm happy with the way things played out for me. Sure, things could have been better, but they certainly could have been worse, too. I know that. To work with Coach Wannstedt and other coaches who have been in the NFL and Coach Walker, he does a great job.

"So, it might not have gone how I wanted it exactly to go, but I don't look at what was. I look at what is and what will be. If I think too much about what could have happened, that would turn out to be negative, and I don't want that. I look at every day as an opportunity. That's the way I looked at it when I was at Pitt, and that's my attitude right now for the NFL.''

That attitude might have wavered a bit while he was at Pitt, but Collins never said so publicly. And he has trained hard to prepare for the NFL Draft, slimming from 230 to 224 pounds on his nearly 6-foot frame. He also put together a highlight video and handed it out to every NFL team.

"I'll do whatever a team wants me to do,'' Collins said. "I'll gain weight back or lose it and play whatever position they want me to play. I can pound the line, block or catch passes, so I should be able to handle whatever they want me to do. I've talked to a couple teams, but I'm not sure which are really interested.''

Collins said he ran a 4.5 40-yard dash in high school, but he's much bigger now and actually tipped the scales at 240 pounds early in his career at Pitt.

"That was before Buddy and James got here, but I dropped 10 pounds and was a lot more solid after that,'' Collins said. "I was in much better shape. I got leaner and stronger. I'm ready to go into a camp and show what I can do. I just need the chance. Maybe I could be like (Le'Ron) McClain from the Ravens.

"If I could be like that it would be great. But my biggest fear is that somebody wants me to be just a blocking back, an every-down blocking back, and I don't think that's enough for me to do. I think I'm more valuable than that. I know I can run the ball, and I learned how to do everything else.

"Even though my (playing) time was limited at Pitt,'' Collins added, "I think I was able to make some plays. And that's what I want to do. I want a chance to make plays in the NFL, because I think I can be an effective back in that role. Blocking, running some and catching passes, a little bit of everything.''

Collins should know sometime late Sunday night if he'll get that chance.

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