After 13 years in prison, ex-Dolphin Cecil Collins has no regrets

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.

35 responses to “After 13 years in prison, ex-Dolphin Cecil Collins has no regrets

  1. Man i had high hopes for him, in preseason with fins he was averaging 5.5 or 5.7 yards. He had talent just couldn’t keep his (man unit) outta trouble.

    And it seems his man unit is still getting him in trouble if he met and married a inmates friend lol

  2. Good luck to him.

    It is tough to watch someone throw away the opportunity this guy had…..but hopefully he has turned it around while serving his time and will can stay out of trouble moving forward.

  3. I think 15 years for a non-violent crime is outrageous! MDS’s point that Stallworth got 24 days for killing someone just while drunk just drives the point home. Our judicial system is completely messed up…..especially in Florida and Texas.

  4. “I believe if I was left out there with that same mindset, I’d be dead or my life would be totally in shambles.”
    How does being a convicted felon and spending almost 50% of his life so far in prison NOT qualify as a life in shambles? I’m glad he feels he turned his life around but prison tends to limit your ability to get into more trouble (outside of fights/etc.) We’ll see when he gets out.

    The sentencing seems/is a bit harsh, however he was arrested several times for exactly the same thing while in college. It was quite surprising that he got drafted at all.

  5. It’s great to hear that Collins is doing relatively well and holds no grudges, but how utterly ridiculous is it that he was given 15 years for a burglary?? He unfortunately probably had a racist judge hand down that sentence. And I’m white, for those of you about to scream about black people playing the race card.

  6. Good luck to him. Fact is that things won’t get any easier when he’s released. It has always been hard for a convicted felon to find a good job…in this economy, it is even harder.

  7. I’m surprised the initial reactions here are Collins got too much as compared to Stalworth and not Stalworth got too little as compared to Collins. These are vast different perspectives.

    (This ignores the fact that they were sentenced years apart and the standards are different today then when Collins got booked. And many other circumstances that make it an apples to oranges comparison)

    I don’t really have much concern with anyone doing TOO much time for the crime they are convicted. Since I’m not going to break into a woman’s house to watch her sleep or do anything else it’s not something I’m going to need to worry about being “over-punished.”

    Also I understand how Cecil can feel his life would have been worse (a shambles) without the jail sentence.

  8. Cecil Collins I believe was sent to prison for a probation violation in Lousianna. Texas and Florida may be messed up but not the big problem in Cecil’s case. The sentence seemed really harsh given the circumstances of his offense. Justice is blind, sometimes to justice.

  9. Let’s be a little more careful on the cherry picking here.

    He got 15 years because of two similar convictions in his past, as well as being on probation for one of those while he committed his last crime.

    He won a re-sentencing hearing for his last crime… and was sentenced to the same 15 years.

    At least two of his convictions involved breaking into places where it seemed he was intent on sexually assaulting women who lived there, but was interrupted before he could do it.

    Nope. He’s not getting sympathy from me on his sentence.

    I truly hope he has turned his life around and returns to society as a law-abiding person.

  10. There have been several nfl players that has killed people while drunk driving. All those players time in jail doesn’t add up to 1/3 of the time this guy did. he got f’ed over by the system for burglary. Good luck when you get out.

  11. I wish everyone would quit comparing someone’s punishment to Stallworth. Someone ran in front of Stallworths car and Stallworth got in trouble because he was high when it happened. Like a company that manufactures a defective product or a homeowner that doesn’t put a high enough fence around their pool, there may be some legal responsibility there but there was no intent to cause harm.

    And Stallworth owned up to it from the second it happened. In most of these other cases that everyone loves to compare to Stallworth there was definitely terrible intent, arrogance, and a sense of entitlement that prison goes a long way to correcting.

    I do agree 15 years sounds harsh for this guy but that’s based on the facts of his case as presented in this article, nothing to do with Stallworth.

  12. Oh man Cecil was GREAT…..We really had something special with that kid……he had gotten hurt and while rehabbing got in trouble……he needed to get his head on straight. I’ve seen a lot of RB’s come through our system, but Cecil was SPECIAL, almost UNSTOPPABLE….good luck young man!!

  13. Every week, hundreds of thousands of Americans drive home as drunk as Stallworth was that night. The vast majority don’t have the bad luck of having someone walk in front of them. You better be very careful before throwing rocks at Stallworth – it’s pretty well guaranteed that either you or someone you love has done the same thing he did that night. He didn’t set out to kill someone – he was just driving home. You, or your father, or your brother (or sister) have done the identical thing many times. That one of you haven’t killed someone is just dumb luck.

    If you, your entire family, and all your friends have never had two or three drinks in the same night, you can ignore what I just wrote.

  14. Too bad he did not realize the gifts he had. 15 years is crazy, must have had Uncle Ray Ray as his attorney.

  15. If it was just one burglary the sentence would have been way too high. In Collins’ case he had a past history of criminal behavior that justified the harsh sentence.

    Stallworth was a completely different matter. He was driving while intoxicated and that’s a crime, but, from everything I read, the death was not due to his intoxication. Had he been sober, he still could not have avoiding hitting a guy who stepped into the road in front of his car.

  16. Strange that Jimmy Johnson doesn’t get mentioned in this story with all of the talk of who controlled GM duties in Dallas. If I recall correctly, Collins was drafted the same year that Jimmy brought in like 30-something RBs (slight exaggeration) to training camp.

    Many of us at the time saw Collins for what he was: highly talented but highly troubled and likely to be a huge bust that never made much of a contribution on the field.

  17. sure… he should have only gotten 1/2 year… then he could have come out and then killed someone…

    it looks like the justice system actually worked this time…it protected society at large from a manace- and an NFL running back breaking into your home in the middle of the night is nothing short of a menace-
    and it rehabilitated his character…win/win.

  18. “Burglary” may have been the charge, but come on people. Collins had a history of breaking into women’s homes and sexual battery. Not a doubt in my mind that was intent here. His record before this:

    “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.”

    And the final arrest:

    “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.

    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.”

    This guy was a sexual battery waiting to happen and the streets were safer with him behind bars. It was a “burglary” charge, but everyone knew what was going on there. Memories seem to be fading.

  19. Im not saying his sentence was too long considering his previous record and an admitted mindset of invulnerability.

    I will say that running someone over while drunk is a far greater crime considering the options available to not be driving drunk as a young, rich man. I don’t know if he couldn’t have stopped either way because we only know for a fact that he was drunk and impaired.

    Manslaughter where I come from doesnt let you off with 24 days. Hell, the second time you are caught driving drunk is 12 months. Just let that sink in while defending Stallworth.

  20. Picked up a woman visiting another inmate? That must have made for some awkward moments “in the yard”.

  21. Some of you guys should know better than to pass judgment on someone’s sentence without knowing his full criminal history. Breaking into a woman’s bedroom when you’ve broken into two other homes means 15 years is perfectly appropriate. And if he does it again let’s hope he gets life.

  22. 15 years means he committed the crime with a concealed weapon on him. Whether or not you agree if that’s too harsh, that is the law.

    But it’s good that this guy has turned his life around.

  23. So, in your past life, you “ran in clubs and with the wrong people,” eh? I was going to wish you luck, but remind you that many, many things have changed dramatically since you went away. Actually, I guess it is fair to say that the mindset of some CURRENT players is EXACTLY the same these many years later. At any rate, good luck to you.

  24. I Wish they were as harsh on people that broke into houses in Washington state. We have people break into a house and assault the people in there, then end up out of jail in a few months.

  25. i am dating his daughter her name is Zakayla she told me about him and i was like wow i got to look him up because im a big football fan and im even going to leesville jr high right across the street from the high schoool he went to

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