Center High School alum Maliek Collins receives Hall of Fame award from Bob Ray, Center High School Activities and Athletic Director. Photo by Kristen Reeves Vleisides.

NFL tackle Maliek Collins inducted into Center Athletic Hall of Fame

“I came over here because I was kicked out of school in Kansas.”

By Max Goodwin

Maliek Collins is one of the 20-highest-paid defensive tackles in the NFL, but he’s not interested in talking about that, at least not now, minutes before the start of the induction ceremony for the Center High School Athletic Hall of Fame. 

With 14 other inductees, Collins entered the school’s Hall of Fame that night. After eight years in the NFL, he looks back on those days when he was a student at Center and said he couldn’t believe it had already been a decade.

“I came over here because I was kicked out of school in Kansas,” Collins said. “I went to the superintendent’s office over there. And they gave me an opportunity to be able to come here, and it’s been great ever since.”

Brad Sweeten, the man Collins credits with finding him at that moment and bringing him to Center High School, was the Athletic Director from 2008 to 2020. During that time he was instrumental in hiring and supervising all of the sports programs. The mark he left on those programs that he rebuilt is still going strong today. 

Sweeten is the founder of the Center Athletic Hall of Fame and was instrumental in hiring coaches and supervising all of the sports programs that he rebuilt at Center. They paused these induction ceremonies for the past three years and inducted them all at once this year, making for a momentous night celebrating Center Athletics on June 10.

Inductees at the Center Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony.

Sweeten was one of those 15 members inducted as part of the large class of honorees. That he would enter the school’s hall of fame at the same time as Sweeten added significance for Collins. 

“He would do anything for anybody. I’ve never met anybody that would say anything bad about Coach Sweeten,” Collins said. “I’m just happy to be sharing the same stage as him.”

At Center High School, Collins learned a new mindset and a new way to use his size and strength, as well. He became a Class 2 state champion as a heavyweight wrestler in 2012. Today, he still uses those skills he learned in wrestling in the NFL.

Maliek Collins, Class of 2013

He has said it helped him develop the ability to use leverage to get around offensive linemen and keep his hands away from his body.

“Being a former wrestler has been pivotal for my career,” Collins said.

“I still try to wrestle every now and then. I kind of lost it, but that’s my foundation. That’s what makes me, me.”

Collins stood outside the Wrestling Room at Center High School as he spoke. He had just toured the school with students. He’s been back several times since graduating. But he hasn’t seen this room since. It’s where he learned the craft that helped turn him into a professional football player. 

“That’s a spot that gets kind of touchy for me with how much work was put in in that room,” Collins said. 

Those were foundational years to Collins becoming the man he is now, a leader for an NFL Franchise. Collins will be lining up for the Houston Texans as the team restructures its roster around the most recent draft. Collins will be on the Texans’ defensive line next to Will Anderson Jr., the 3rd overall pick. With the 2nd overall pick, the Texans took the team’s new quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Collins had maybe his best season last year since he was drafted in 2016 in the third round from the University of Nebraska. He will be counted on by the Texans again this year, and after that, he’s up for a new contract. Expectations around the league are that his next contract will be better than his current.

During offseasons, he makes his way back to Kansas City. On rare occasions, he’s even shown up for some of the Yellowjackets’ practices.

Maliek visits with Coach Bryan DeLong. Photo by Isaiah Maxi

“He showed up like he was a kid and did the whole workout with the team and practiced afterward,” Center football coach Bryan DeLong said two years ago during an offseason that Collins was a free agent looking for a new contract.

During his induction speech, Collins remembered DeLong filling his truck with players and giving them rides home. He looked out across the auditorium of accomplished Center athletes and coaches. “Go, Yellowjackets,” he said as he walked off the stage.

A week later, Collins was also inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association. He was the only player honored, along with ten coaches. 

“I’m so proud of his accomplishments,” DeLong said. “He didn’t come up as a 5-star recruit with all the advantages. Going into his 8th year in the NFL, he has earned everything he has received, and to this day, he is the same ole humble Maliek.”


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