FRISCO, Texas – There couldn't possibly be a better metaphor for La'el Collins than what happened outside the Cowboys' weight room on Wednesday.
About 100 feet away, Ezekiel Elliott stood on a platform, addressing dozens of reporters about his newly-signed contract. Right before he got his lift in, Collins spoke briefly with about five.
"I'm a firm believer in, you go to work, you handle your business, you do everything that they ask of you – they see that," Collins said. "For me, I feel like that was just something I could control. Control everything that I can, just go to work every day. I figured the time would come."
Collins' time came Tuesday morning, just 24 hours before Elliott. The Cowboys' right tackle signed his third contract with the team, ensuring that he'll continue blocking for Elliott for at least the next five years.
"I think it was just big to kind of go ahead and get that done and move forward," he said. "Get that behind me and focus on ball."
From the outsider's perspective, this extension came as a complete shock. Contract negotiations with Elliott have been ongoing and very public for the last month, and the Cowboys also have to sort things out with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.
He might have been quiet about it, but Collins said he had an idea something was brewing for at least a little while.
"Probably a week and a half before, just when we started talking," he said. "I just knew that I felt real confident something was going to get done, because I knew I wanted to be here and I knew how much it meant."
That last comment is the biggest variable in the entire conversation. If it was assumed that Collins was headed elsewhere when his old contract expired, it was because of the salary he'd be able to demand elsewhere.
But Collins, who is from nearby Louisiana and who has only ever played for one NFL organization, didn't want to be elsewhere. He wanted to be here.
And because of that, he will be for quite some time.
"I know this is where I want to live after football, I want to retire here. That makes things a whole lot easier. It's just great for me and my family to be able to have this moving forward, and for me to stay here with my teammates and continue to build something we've been building,"