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Eatman: Cowboys Gave Collins His Moment; Rookie More Than Delivered

IRVING, Texas – Wow.

What else can you really say about what has happened here this week, particularly here on Thursday afternoon at Valley Ranch.

For starters, I'm not sure I've ever seen a press conference that was as powerful as what I witnessed here at Valley Ranch. And if I have, it certainly didn't come from a 21-year-old who has already faced as much as adversity as most people will ever endure.

At any point, insert your own 'wow' moment to what has actually transpired here.

For starters, the Cowboys ended up signing La'el Collins, who was projected to be a Top 15 pick and one of the first offensive tackles in the draft. That's a wow-like statement by itself.

The Cowboys get to pair up Collins, with Randy Gregory (another one-time Top 10 player) and Byron Jones, the only official first-round pick for the Cowboys this year. That's a double-wow!

If you consider Collins a first-round talent, the Cowboys now have four first-rounders on this team, along with Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. All three of them actually earned All-Pro status as well. Another wow.

But all of that aside, let's get to the real greatness that took place on Thursday.

In all of my years of watching these press conferences, I can't remember someone who completely owned the moment like Collins did. And speaking of the "moment," let's give the Cowboys some credit for making sure Collins got one. Maybe it's not the same as being a first-round pick, but at least he got a press conference, his picture taken with his new jersey and cap, standing next to his mother.

No Collins didn't get drafted. Instead, he got to do the drafting himself. And after a meeting with Jerry Jones Wednesday night, that included the likes of Tony Romo and Tyron Smith, Collins didn't really need to visit any more teams.

"I had the opportunity to choose from 32 teams where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy," Collins said. "I wanted to be in a place where I would fight for championships, year in and year out. I wanted to be in a place where I would reach my full potential around guys that see the same vision I see, a team that stands for something. I'm happy to be here and I'm looking forward to everything that Dallas, everything that this community, everything that this team, everything that these fans that support this team, I look forward to everything this city has to offer and I want to be a great asset, I want to contribute to being the best offensive line in NFL history. I've got the opportunity to do it and I chose it."

Umm, wow.

That was really the first thing out of Collins' mouth since being introduced to the Cowboys organization. Of all the rumors, all the scrutiny, all the unwanted attention, and finally Collins gets to join a team, speaking into the mic and that's what he says? Jason Garrett said it best when he called it inspirational.

Jerry Jones couldn't help but get a little teary-eyed on a couple of occasions, not only when he listened to Collins speak from the heart, but when the owner himself shared some of the conversations he had the night before with his both Collins and his mother.

All in all, it was just a special moment because you know just how much pain the young man has been through.

Here he is at the NFL Draft in Chicago last week and attending a community event when he gets advised that it's time for him to leave and head back to Louisiana so he can meet with the police. Never considered a legitimate "suspect" for the death of his former girlfriend, who was murdered last month, but Collins still had enough of a dark cloud over his  head that prevented any team from taking him.

Most guys dream of getting the chance to attend the NFL Draft and hear his name called.

Never before does that scenario include having to leave early and never getting the chance to get picked.

Collins got a second chance now, even though the investigation remains ongoing, it appears his name has been cleared.

Now, he can focus on playing football. And while he undoubtedly lost millions in this process, Collins still has a refreshing perspective.

"I never played the game for the money – I play because I love the game, I play the game because I'm passionate about it. Just to be here – I'm still getting paid," Collins said. "And at the end of the day, it was way more than I was getting college. It's a plus. It's a great situation. What's for me is going to be for me. The money, all that – that's cool. If I handle my business and this team handles the business that we know we're going to handle, that'll come."

If Collins can provide as many wow moments on Sundays as he did this Thursday, the Cowboys will indeed have the best offensive line the NFL has seen in many  years, if not ever.

Our job tells us to be objective. This guy makes it difficult because he's a kid you have to root for.

At one point, Collins stared right at a reporter and said, "I chose to wear this star because I feel like I'm a star. My family's a star. And we will represent it very well."

Just a few hours removed from signing his contract, La'el Collins already has.

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