|Kerry Collins - Turning It Around|
"Kerry Collins thrust the NFC Championship trophy into the air on his victory lap, a long, slow, sure run of redemption along the big blue wall. Here, Collins remembered the taunts he absorbed as a recovering alcoholic when he was called a drunk, a loser, and a quitter. Now, he had an amazing perspective on Giants Stadium, seeing the rows upon rows of Giant blue rising to the top of the stadium, to the sky."
Collins seemed destined for stardom from the beginning, growing up in Lebanon, PA as the son of a high school football coach. He led his high school team to a 14-0 record and the Pennsylvania state 4-A title racking up 2,043 yards passing and 17 touchdown passes.
Collins went to Penn State and directed the Nittany Lions to an 11-0 record, topped by a 38-20 victory over Oregon in the 1995 Rose Bowl. He was a first-team All-America selection his senior season and won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top quarterback.
After college, he was selected by Carolina Panthers in the first round -- the fifth pick overall -- in the 1995 NFL draft. In 1996 he lead the Panthers to the NFC championship and played in the Pro Bowl.
Drinking Takes a TollBut through it all, he partied as hard as he competed on the field. It began to take a toll. His superstar life began to fall apart.
In 1997, rumors began to surface that he had a problem with alcohol abuse. His playing ability was affected as he led the league that year with 21 interceptions and finished last in passing efficiency.
He lost his starting quarterback job with the Panthers in 1998 and subsequently was placed on waivers. He was picked up by the New Orleans Saints, but soon after signing, he was arrested on driving while impaired charges on Nov 2, 1998.
Collins was granted unconditional free agency in February 1999 and was signed by New York Giants February 19, 1999. That is when he made a decision he had to do something to turn his life around.
"You think about your life and you think about what its all about and what you want it to be all about and for a long time I wasnt really sure," Collins says on his official web site. "I went into rehab, did a lot of soul searching in there, was able to step away from everything and for eight weeks just work on Kerry Collins and look and see what he wanted to do."
Rehab Paying Off"Since I had been in the NFL, which had only been four years, I had never not drank and not partied and really dedicated myself and life to the game," he said. "I feel responsible to do that because I have been given a talent and I think that a wasted talent is the biggest crime you can have. I made that decision, and I stuck with it."
Through the NFL's drug and alcohol program, Collins made a decision to enter a treatment and rehabilitation center in Topeka, KS.
"When I went there I checked Kerry Collins, the football player at the door. I went in as Kerry Collins the person and that was something that can often times get clouded and confused as a young quarterback in the NFL who has had some success," he said. "It was a very rewarding experience for me. It was tough to go in there, it was tough to do all of the work that I did, but I think now it is really paying off and I am proud of where I come from and where I am going."
Where he is going is to the Super Bowl, after leading the Giants to a shocking 41-0 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL Championship game with a 381-yard, five-touchdown performance.
"I always believed that things would come full circle," Collins told a reporter after the game. "Even during the bad days, because they were so bad, I thought there were going to be good days some day."
Collins Bares His Soul to the MediaPrevious Features
Meetings like Monday's happen all the time in almost every city in America. Rarely, though, do they happen in front of a crowd of 250 reporters with pads, pens, microphones and cameras.
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