Alex Collins is on the clock.
The highly coveted running back from South Plantation High School is expected to announce his college choice Monday night in Atlanta during a live broadcast on national television.
Six schools will be waiting and hoping.
“It’s Miami, Florida, Florida State, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Texas,” declares the senior tailback.
Miami and Arkansas are believed to be the frontrunners and fans of both schools have taken to Twitter to try to sway the 5’11”, 205-pound workhorse.
So much so, that the University of Miami’s compliance office has asked the UM faithful to back down, tweeting that “only coaches can recruit prospects.”
Collins, who is active on the social media site, may not be close to a decision.
“This definitely feels like the longest weekend of my life,” Collins tweeted Saturday.
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“You want to make the right decision for yourself,” Collins told NBC 6. “You take everything into consideration and it’s a lot to take in. It’s hard.”
Nicknamed Budda (pronounced like Buddha), Collins is arguably the top prospect in Broward County. In two seasons with South Plantation, he rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 38 touchdowns. He is ranked 13th among running backs in the entire country by Rivals.com and a 5-star recruit (out of 5) by Scout.com.
Schools are pushing hard. National Signing Day is Wednesday. Collins is being asked to decide two days early and admits he’s torn.
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“You have to go to all these schools and you end up falling in love with all these schools, and then you have to turn those schools down because you have to pick one. Each school has a lot to offer and for you to turn that down, it’s hard when you really think about it.”
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema is doing all he can. Earlier in the week, he tweeted a picture of himself in front of a picture of Buddha with the caption, “Found a Budda in Dallas. Lucky charms everywhere we go.” The spelling was no typo.
Miami Head Coach Al Golden enjoyed a powerful sales pitch, too, the week before. Collins was invited to the UM Duke men’s basketball game. The ’Canes routed the Blue Devils who were ranked No. 1 at the time. The fans stormed the court. Collins was among them , caught up in the euphoria.
So who has the edge? Collins is giving few clues.
Originally he committed to Miami. Then he stepped back. He’s approaching his decision the same way he approaches football: methodically.
“I started off standard. I made a list. I did a lot of research. I made sure each school had my major. I’m really interested in every school. When I make my final decision, I’m going to make it based on wherever I feel most comfortable,” Collins says. “I want to sit down to talk to my head coach about it and my mom about it, then I’ll sit down and talk to myself about it.”
If it’s up to his mom, the decision would already be made.
“She wants me to go to Miami because she’s a fan of the school and because it’s close to home, so she’ll be able to come to all of my games,” Collins says before adding, “It’s ultimately going to be my decision. She’ll just end up being ok with whatever school I go to and support me.”
“I would hate to upset her, but it’s just something I have to do for me.”
Weather could play a factor in the decision. But not for the reasons you might think.
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“I haven’t ever seen snow,” Collins admits. “I want to. When you run in cold weather, to me, it feels like I’ll never get tired,” he says.
Whatever the decision may be, Budda will be relieved when it’s all over.
“I can guarantee you that you’ll see my shoulders just drop. I’ll be like, ‘finally, it’s over.’ I’ll be able to take a deep breath. I feel like I’ve been staying up late a lot. I’ve been stressing over thinkings. I’ll be finally at ease.”
At ease means being able to be a just a regular high school kid again. Collins will return to the South Plantation lacrosse team. He can again relax as he tickles the ivories of his favorite piano.
“I like to do a lot of different things than football. It’s fun. I like to learn new things. I like to overachieve at it,” Collins says proudly.
“I still remember the first song I learned to play in the eighth grade, and I can still play it. It was 'Lean on Me.'"
Four years later, Collins has moved up the ranks from Bill Withers to Alicia Keys.
The senior has dabbled in basketball and track for the Paladins. He also has added another wrinkle.
“Don’t call him a cheerleader,” says South Plantation football coach Doug Gatewood. “He’s a stuntman.”
Yes, Collins is part of the South Plantation cheerleading squad. He’s responsible for lifting, throwing and catching the girls on the team. He just wrapped up the state competition.
Budda is a busy man. And if you’re wondering how exactly he got that nickname, he explains that, too.
“I was a really big baby, so my older brother named me Budda,” Collins says. “The reason he thought of Budda was because my dad’s nickname was Bubba. So it was kinda like changing the b’s into d’s and it reminds him of Buddha being that I was just that big of a baby.”
So now Budda contemplates. As anguishing as the decision may be for Collins, don’t think he isn’t appreciating the moment. Regardless of the final choice, he’s in a win-win situation.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance and opportunity. For me to have a full scholarship offer to basically wherever I want to go, it means a lot. If you work hard at something, you’ll get a good outcome.”