February 1, 2012

Collins sticks with the Tide

GEISMAR, La. | Less than a month ago, Landon Collins took the stage at the Under Armour All-America Game for his big moment, the moment every young football player dreams of while growing up. He was announcing his college decision between Alabama and LSU.

Despite the fact that Collins lives in Geismar, La., just down the road from Baton Rouge, the five-star safety picked the Crimson Tide over the Tigers.

It was a decision he had made long before.

For him, it was a relief when he announced his choice. It was a weight lifted off his shoulders.

For his mom, April Justin, it was more like a bad dream when her son picked Alabama, and she showed her dismay on national television during the all-star game telecast.

It didn't end there. After making a scene at the all-star game, Justin later alleged that Collins' girlfriend, Victoria Lowery, was promised a job in the office of UA head coach Nick Saban.

Asked about Justin's criticism of her son's decision, Saban said that he has a good relationship with Collins and his family.

"Landon's got a great family and Landon's a great person," Saban said. "This is kind of a mutual partnership we have with parents when they send their sons here to develop in our program. We want to continue to try to develop the principles and values they want for their young folks."

Fast forward to Wednesday, National Signing Day.

The time had come for Collins to finally sign with the University of Alabama. With family, friends, classmates and, most importantly, his mother looking on, he signed the papers and made it official.

"It feels fantastic," Collins said. "It's the best feeling I've had in a long time."

It was also a special moment for his mom, even if she still preferred he go to LSU.

"It's an awesome feeling," she said. "It's special. It's very special. Even though I prefer LSU, I trust his decision. We always make decisions together, so I trust and value that decision. He's got to get out there and do it now."

Right before Collins was about to sign the papers, an emotional Justin made one last attempt to sway her son to LSU. To that, Collins said, 'Mom, Roll Tide.' She kissed him on the cheek, and the two pinkie-squared that he was going to stay focused and work hard when he gets to Alabama.

"She was just asking me if I was sure about my decision and that I could still change," Collins said. "I just said, 'I'm sure mom.' She just wants the best for me.

"It's always tough for a kid to see his mom cry. You rarely see that. You only see that maybe at funerals or at happy times. It was kind of hard to see that."

After the encounter, Justin followed her son down to the table where he signed his papers. Dressed in a neutral green shirt this time - rather than LSU purple and gold - she seemed happy to see her son sign with Alabama, but also sad that he would be leaving for college soon.

"I did enjoy the process," Justin said. "I really did until the he finally got down to where he was getting ready to leave, but it was fun. I enjoyed every moment of it because both schools are outstanding. When it comes time, I'm going to have to let him go."

It won't be easy for Collins to leave Louisiana and leave his family either, but the Alabama signee also cannot wait until he steps foot on UA's campus as a student. He's ready to get to Tuscaloosa.

"I'm very excited," Collins said. "It's going to be the best feeling ever. My happiness is going to be through the roof, and I'm just ready to get out there.

"I love it down there. I feel at home. I love the coaching staff. I'm very cool with the players that I'm going in there with, and it's just a good fit for me. I just feel different when I'm there."

In November, Alabama will make the road trip to Baton Rouge to face LSU, and Justin said she will not miss that game. She already knows who she will be rooting for.

"I'm rooting for Landon," Justin said. "I'm waiting for my interception. I'm waiting for him to do what he did here at Dutchtown (High School). I'm looking forward to that."

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