La'el Collins Honors His Pledge to the LSU Program
La'el Collins spent days and nights thinking about his decision after LSU's win in the Outback Bowl last January. Deciding to come back for his senior year or going to the NFL was an important choice for his future, his family and his team.
After days of speculation, the offensive lineman spoke in front of members of the media, teammates and coaches in the team room at the Football Operations Center. He decided to come back for his senior season. The weight of the world was lifted off of his shoulders and it was all about his final season.
“I spent so many days thinking about coming back or not,” Collins said. “I'm in a great situation, but I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing. Being able to stand up in front of my teammates and LSU fans across the country and let them know I was coming back was incredible.”
Deciding to come back for his final year of eligibility was more than just about football. It was a four-year commitment he made to the LSU coaching staff when he was at Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge.
“I never knew how good I was until the recruiting process started. I knew I had to take advantage of this opportunity because not everyone gets to do this. The most important decision of my life was to come to LSU,” Collins said. “Being committed to the program was the most important reason for coming back.”
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When he committed to LSU, Collins also understood the responsibility that came with playing football. There's a special platform for student-athletes on this campus to make an impact around Baton Rouge. They are in the spotlight whether it's good or bad. Collins understands the importance of giving back.
“So many young kids look up to our team,” Collins said. “We have so many people behind us. It's great to have people look up to you. I wouldn't have traded my last year for anything. I'm going to embrace every single moment left on this campus.”
The Baton Rouge native has made the most out of his role as a leader in the community. He makes regular trips to the Boy's and Girl's Club of Baton Rouge, where he talks and reads to the kids. Collins grew up going to the club in Baton Rouge from fourth through sixth grade.
“I was young and never knew where my life would take me,” Collins said. “I never could have imagined that I would play football for LSU. I never set those goals when I was growing up.”
Collins was always busy as a Boy Scout of America or going to events at the club. The speakers and volunteers at the club made the biggest impact upon him in setting goals and staying on the track to success.
“It wasn't until I made my first trip to the club that I began to set goals,” Collins explained. “The volunteers helped me reach my goals. That's a huge reason I enjoy going to talk to the kids. I hope to make the same impact.
“I love being able to go talk to the kids because I know exactly where they are coming from. They have their whole lives in front of them. I want to give them a sense of hope for their future. The sky is the limit.”
Going into his senior season at LSU, Collins is focused and ready. He's a leader on the team and coming back showed his commitment to the program. Collins entered the season as one of the top left tackles in the country with 25 starts in his career. He's also a candidate for the Outland Trophy and other national awards.
“Coming back for my senior year was more than just for me. It was for my teammates, coaches, the fans, and the city. It was also for the kids that I'm able to mentor throughout the year,” Collins said. “I want them to know that I believe in them, too.”
Growing up in Baton Rouge, Collins is surrounded by friends and family at every home football game. It means a lot to play in front of the hometown crowd.
“It's such an unexplainable feeling being able to play in front of your family, friends and the city that has always supported you. The fans live and die football here. It means so much to know we have their support and the fans look to us as leaders of the team and the city.”
As Collins prepares for his final year in Baton Rouge, every single moment will be soaked in. Walking down Victory Hill to Tiger Stadium before the games is one of his favorite traditions and it's something he'll always remember.
“There are no words to describe Saturdays in Baton Rouge. I get emotional every time I walk down the hill with my teammates,” Collins said. “Once we get into the locker room the mood changes. You look into your teammates' eyes and you see the focus and passion. That's what makes this place so special.”
Collins knows this is just one chapter of his life. He knows it's important to think about the future, but it's also important to take one step at a time, especially in his final season at LSU.
“I try not to get caught up in my future in the NFL,” Collins said. “I know that this game could be taken away from me in one play. I enjoy taking in every moment as we go. Once I'm done playing football I want to help kids get on the right path and set goals for themselves. Those lessons from my role models are why I'm here today.”