A year ago, on the first series against Laney College, City College running back DeShawn Collins suffered a bone bruise in his right ankle. Instead of a star-making season that could have seen him gain recruiting attention from a four-year program, he had to sit out.
On his first carry of the 2018 season against Sierra College, Collins got the ball on a handoff and burst through a wide open hole for a 60-yard touchdown.
Collins would finish the 56-13 season-opening win over Sierra with 115 rushing yards on 14 carries with three touchdowns, making himself instrumental in the Rams’ season-opening victory. Collins was back, leaving the defenders in his dust, showing off the talent the Rams had been waiting a year to finally utilize.
“They say it can end in one play,” Collins said. “I had never sat out a season before, and it gave me extra appreciation and the perspective that if I am going to go out, I am going out fighting and giving it my all.”
Collins was slated to be the starting running back for City College in 2017, but on the opening drive of the opening game against Laney College, Collins suffered the injury that would cost him his season. In his absence, backup Isaiah Floyd thrived, rushing for 1797 yards, a City College record. Floyd is now at Arizona State, and Collins is once again the starter.
Born and raised in Sacramento, Collins played at Grant Union High School where he stared at running back but didn’t get the scholarships he thought he deserved. Collins signed with the University of Rhode Island, but after spending the summer there, he decided to head back west and try to earn himself a scholarship to a major Division I program.
“Me leaving the full scholarship was a big deal for me,” Collins said. “I really believed that I could play at a higher level. I do this all for my family and I want to repay them for all the time they invested in me.”
Collins enrolled at City College in the fall of 2016 but redshirted his first year. The 2017 season was supposed to be his breakout year but the injury delayed that plan for a season.
“At first it was tough,” DeShawn Collins said. “But one I got my head wrapped around it I was like I am going to come back even better. I turned myself from a boy into a man.”
While recovering from his injury, Collins turned himself into an extra coach, making sure to give advice to Floyd during his record-breaking season.
Head coach Jimmy Collins thinks that the injury gave DeShawn Collins a new perspective on playing football.
“He knows how quickly it can be taken and that is scary,” Jimmy Collins said. “He is appreciating it more and he is a leader in the weightroom and the classroom. He is an excellent student and I think he appreciating the comradery of being around his teammates again.”
DeShawn Collins is a sturdy 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, a build which helps him run over defenders. His head coach has seen him bench 225 pounds 27 times in the weightroom — the type of strength you typically see at the NFL Combine. He uses that strength to be a punishing between-the-tackles back.
“I am a north-south type of runner,” DeShawn Collins said. “Never been much of an east-west guy.”
DeShawn Collins’s strength comes handy not only in the running game, but also when he stays back to help protect the quarterback.
“DeShawn can do alot of things great,” running back coach Larry Grant said. “He can catch the ball, run the ball and most importantly he can protect for the quarterback.”
Grant, a former NFL linebacker for the 49ers, and a former Rams player, can’t emphasize enough how important DeShawn Collin’s pass blocking skills are for the Rams.
“If you can’t protect the quarterback, you can’t throw the ball,” Grant said. “We take pride in making sure our quarterback stays clean as possible.”
“I know I can’t be one-dimensional,” DeShawn Collins said. “I want to be a three-down back, so I make sure I can do everything. Having coach Grant is great, because we are getting the mind of a NFL player and he can tell us what the linebackers are thinking.”
DeShawn Collins’s receiving skills helped the Rams win their second game of the season last week, a tight 37-29 win over Sacramento City College. He caught a 22-yard touchdown from quarterback Jack Newman to go on top of his 77 yards rushing on 16 carries with one touchdown on the ground.
In the Rams opener, his blocking helped the Rams score twice.
“We have two touchdowns on Saturday that don’t happen if DeShawn doesn’t pass block the way he did,” Jimmy Collins said. “One of them wasn’t even his guy; someone else made a mistake. It shows that all he cares about is winning, not about stats or recognition.”
That level of commitment is what makes Jimmy Collins sure that DeShawn Collins will make the jump to play at higher levels.
“His 115 yards, three-touchdown performance won’t be an aberration,” Jimmy Collins said. “We are going to see a lot of those. If he can consistently perform like that throughout the course of a 13-game season, his statistics will be impressive, his tape will be impressive, our record will be impressive and as a result — hopefully — he will get a pretty impressive opportunity for himself.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that DeShawn Collins’s 60-yard run occurred in 2017. It occurred at the start of the 2018 season.