By Max Goodwin
A text from a former player came through Bryan DeLong’s phone early one morning as the head football coach at Center High School prepared for a summer practice as another season approached.
It had been a couple years since starting defensive tackle for the Houston Texans, Maliek Collins had stopped by Center to see his old coach. DeLong sent a quick return text to Collins saying they would start practice at 8.
“It was nice to have him there,” DeLong said. “He showed up like he was a kid and did the whole work out with the team and practiced afterwards. He worked with some of our d[efensive] linemen and o[ffensive] linemen.”
Collins played both sides of the ball at Center and as an offensive lineman would drive opposing defenders 10 to 15 feet off the line of scrimmage.
DeLong said Collins made his job as coach easier. It was more than just his talent. DeLong said Collins was the hardest worker he had, and when the best players are the hardest workers it motivates the rest of the team.
“Great leader, great kid. He was just a blessing to have on those teams,” DeLong said. “I miss Maliek.”
In 2016, Collins was a third round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys out of the University of Nebraska. From the middle of the defensive line, Collins can push the pocket and put pressure on quarterbacks as he did with 14.5 sacks in four seasons with the Cowboys. It wasn’t as good of a fit with the Raiders, as Collins did not record a sack and had just 14 tackles last season.
He spent the 2020 season with the Las Vegas Raiders after four years with the Cowboys. In the offseason, Collins signed a one-year deal for $6-million with the Houston Texans.
So far throughout the preseason every sign out of Texans training camp is that Collins has impressed his new coaches. On the first depth chart released by the Texans during training camp, August 11, Collins was listed as a starter.
“He can rush the passer,” Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith told reporters. “He’s an athlete, which we’re looking for. He’s been in the system quite a while, pleased with what he’s done so far.”
The deal that Collins signed this year with the Texans is almost identical to the one-year contract he signed last season with the Raiders. Last year, he made a bet on himself in signing a one-year deal. The idea is to outplay that deal and earn a longer, more profitable deal the next year.
That’s not how it worked out last season with the Raiders, but Collins, now 26-years-old, has the same opportunity this season with his new team, the Texans.
“He’s not a big talker, he’s going to show you with his actions and work,” DeLong said. “I’d imagine in the NFL world that’s probably a breath of fresh air.”
Collins is entering his sixth season in the NFL and will once again seek to prove through his work on the field that he deserves a bigger, longer contract next season.