Legends of the Precipitous Fall: Cecil Collins
It was 13 years ago this past Monday that LSU’s Cecil “The Diesel” Collins put on a rushing exhibition against an Auburn defense that had absolutely no answer for the guy. That night in Baton Rouge the sophomore had runs of 27, 48, 33, and 42 yards en route to a 232-yard effort. That’s 232 yards against the team that would end up winning the SEC West that season.
Then again, Rondell Mealey also had 129 yards for LSU, which means Auburn pretty much couldn’t stop anyone that night. So you can imagine the frustration of Bayou Bengal fans as they watched two of their running backs combine for 249 yards…in a 31-28 loss. Wow, I sometimes forget what a shitty coach Gerry DiNardo was.
Despite the fact that LSU came up short, I thought that they’d be just fine with Collins around to hand it off to. The guy was actually slated to begin his college career in 1996 after being signed out of Leesville (LA) High School. There, he amassed 99 career touchdowns and was named the state’s “Mr. Football” after his senior season.
But when he came up short on his ACT score, LSU was forced to sit him down his freshman year. His college debut was further delayed because he was suspended by DiNardo for the ‘97 opener against UTEP following a failed a drug test.
Whether or not the weed that the Diesel smoked was provided by Master P himself will never be known, but dammit, LSU got tough on the kid by preventing him from running roughshod over the Miners. Way to be a stern disciplinarian, DiNardo (man, he really was a shitty coach).
Including that sterling effort against Auburn, Collins had amassed 596 yards in his first four college games and was pretty much the talk of the SEC. I recall that the dude ran like he was pissed off at opposing defenses for being on the same field as he was. Hell, check out this run from his first college game against Mississippi State, he didn’t even need both shoes to accomplish this:
But in LSU’s 7-6 squeaker win over Vanderbilt on October 4, 1997, he broke his leg and was out for the season. In the aftermath, I remember thinking that once the Diesel was healed up, he’d just come back and pick up where he left off. However, Collins once again became the talk of the SEC in the offseason, but for all the wrong reasons. I’ll let Steve Harrison of The Sporting News provide the recap:
On June 25 (1998), Collins was arrested after he allegedly forced his way into an off-campus apartment. He then allegedly grabbed a 17-year-old woman. He was kicked off the team after the first arrest On July 8, he was arrested again, this time for an incident on June 19, in which he allegedly broke into an off-campus apartment and touched an 18-year-old woman.
After the first arrest, he was charged with unauthorized entry into an inhabited dwelling and sexual battery, though the sexual battery charge was reduced to simple battery when he was booked. In October, a grand jury indicted him on two counts each of unauthorized entry into an inhabited dwelling, a felony, and two counts of simple battery, a misdemeanor. Collins pleaded innocent in November. (The Sporting News)
Here’s how the Diesel explained what happened: he said he was sleepwalking and didn’t remember either incident (reading that is as funny now as when I first heard about it 12 years ago). I guess his sleepwalking sessions could have been worse, at least he didn’t grab the father from “Six Feet Under” and beat the hell out him:
Like all athletes with immense talent and questionable morals, Collins was given a second chance at McNeese State. Screw the safety of the women of Lake Charles, the coaches at McNeese State thought to themselves, we gotta have the Diesel!
Unfortunately for them, the player they got might as well have been nicknamed “the Caboose.” An out of shape Collins ran for just over 150 yards in two games before flunking another drug test. Thankfully for the women of Lake Charles, the Diesel’s drug habit derailed his career before he got around to breaking into anyone’s home.
The failed drug test was a violation of his bond, so roughly a year after that glorious night against Auburn, Collins found himself serving a 27-day sentence in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.
You would think that’s where the story ends, but there was some gas left in the Diesel’s tank thanks to one Jimmy Johnson. After being released from prison in Louisiana, Collins actually stayed out of peoples’ homes long enough to work himself back into playing shape.
By this time, Johnson was coaching the Miami Dolphins and was desperate to show the world that he didn’t need the Dallas Cowboys to win a Super Bowl. So after eyeballing the Diesel in an organized workout, Johnson thought he’d found another of his classic late round draft steals. Sure enough, the Dolphins snatched up the Diesel in the 5th round of the 1999 Draft.
This is the point in the story where a happy ending would be nice. Alas, the Diesel never appeared to be a happy ending kind of guy. After running for 414 yards and two scores in his rookie season, Collins got those old urges again. Alex Marvez of the Orlando Sentinel provides the details of what happened on December 16, 1999:
According to a Davie police report, officers were called to the Palm Trace Landings apartment complex, which is located about five minutes from Dolphins headquarters, at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday after receiving a report of a break-in. Collins had been accused of entering the ground-floor residence of Ronald and Tina Nolte, who were asleep at the time.
After forcing open the couple’s window and removing the screen, Collins entered the apartment and headed for the master bedroom, police said. When he opened the door, Collins awoke Ronald Nolte, 43.
When Nolte gave chase, Collins ran back to the window and dived through headfirst, landing on the wet grass separating buildings in the apartment complex, police said.
Nolte told police he ran out his front door to the back of the building and confronted Collins.
One neighbor said he heard men screaming on the lawn around 5 a.m.
Police said they received a 911 call at 5:30 a.m. and went to see Collins in his third-floor apartment after speaking with the Noltes. (Orlando Sentinel)
Following the arrest, the Diesel said he broke into Tina Nolte’s home because he wanted to watch her sleep. Well, at least this time he admitted to being awake himself. Needless to say, his days as a Dolphin were over, as was his life as a free man. Following a 15-year sentence for the crime, the Diesel’s football career finally ended here.