From Ann Arbor to Pensacola to Mobile to Houston, Nico Collins' journey over the last year has been a winding one.
The Michigan wide receiver was chosen in the third round at 89th overall, after the Texans traded away their fourth round pick this year (109th overall), a 2021 fifth-rounder they acquired from the Patriots (158th) and next year's fourth-rounder to the Carolina Panthers. Collins didn't play college football last autumn, and was emotional after getting chosen by the Texans on Friday night.
A year ago, he was training with the Michigan Wolverines and getting set for his senior fall of football. But the Big Ten cancelled its season in August because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Collins opted out of his final collegiate campaign a month later. Collins stayed out when the Big Ten reversed its decision and decided to play football starting in late October. He spent that time training in Pensacola, Florida.
"I was working on a lot of things," Collins said. "Just improving on everything trying to become a better overall wide receiver. Release at the line of scrimmage. Working on things for me to be great, so I could be the best version of myself on the football field."
Collins played in a pair of 2017 games for the Wolverines, and caught three passes for 27 yards. In 2018 and 2019, he pulled in a combined 75 catches for 1,361 yards and 13 touchdowns. His final year as a collegian saw him averaged 19.7 yards per catch. Last fall in the Florida panhandle saw him prepping for a pro career, and he impressed during the Reese's Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Alabama when January rolled around.
"That week was very important to me," Collins said. "I felt like that was my opportunity to showcase what I had been working on in the offseason. I felt like that whole week, that's what I did. And I grabbed the attention from the Houston Texans."
With the 89th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft the Houston Texans select Michigan WR Nico Collins
The Texans, though, had quite a bit of familiarity with Collins before the week in Mobile. Passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton was an assistant at Michigan in 2017 and 2018, and assistant wide receivers coach Ben McDaniels was an assistant in Ann Arbor the last three seasons.
Collins, who stands 6-4, weighs 215 pounds, and boasts a 7-foot-9 inch wingspan, dazzled NFL decision-makers at Michgan's Pro Day. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and benched 225 pounds 14 times.
Collins is now the 10th receiver on the roster.
Earlier in the night, Houston used the 67th overall pick on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills.