Cecil Collins was drafted by the Dolphins in 1999, became their starting running back as a rookie, and then saw his career end as quickly as it began when he was arrested for breaking into a house late in his rookie year and sentenced to 15 years in a Florida prison for burglary.
Collins has tried many times to have that 15-year sentence reduced, but 13 years later he remains in prison. And when Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel visited Collins, he said he has accepted the life he has and even thinks he may be better off, considering the path he was heading on as a young man who thought his talent and income entitled him to do whatever he wanted.
“I have no regrets, no grudges, none of that,” Collins said. “What happened to me in that time saved my life. I believe if I was left out there with that same mindset, I’d be dead or my life would be totally in shambles. It made me grow so much and showed me how to be a man and to live and walk in life. These 15 years they gave me, it seemed bad at first. But I met the most beautiful woman in the world in prison. I found God in prison. I’ve come out of it much better than when I came in.”
Collins got married in prison to a woman he met while she was visiting another inmate, and when he’s finally released next year he says he’ll be a family man, and a different man than Cecil “The Diesel” Collins, who viewed himself as a superstar who could do no wrong.
“I think ‘The Diesel’ is the guy that got me in trouble,” Collins said. “The Diesel ran in clubs, ran with the wrong people. The Diesel didn’t know how to handle all the money or celebrity coming in.”
Collins was an amazing talent (I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a college running back have a better game than Collins’ 232-yard performance against Auburn in 1997), but he could never avoid off-field trouble. After getting kicked off the team at LSU he transferred to McNeese State and then got kicked off the team there, too. The Dolphins knew he was a major character risk when they drafted him, so no one could have been surprised when he couldn’t finish his rookie season without getting into trouble again.
Still, the 15-year sentence seems rather harsh, considering that no one was injured in the break-in that Collins committed. (Collins got a sentence more than 200 times as long as the 24-day sentence another NFL player, Donte Stallworth, served for driving drunk and killing someone in Florida.) That 15-year sentence ended Collins’ football career and took away a large chunk of his life, but in the end Collins thinks it may have saved his life.