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New York Giants strong safety Landon Collins is having one of the best seasons in the NFL in 2016. A second-round draft choice from Alabama who made the NFL's All-Rookie team in 2015, Collins has blossomed into one of the league's top defensive players, with five interceptions in the past four games and two NFC Defensive Player of the Week Awards in that span.
But safety wasn't Collins' position growing up. He became a defensive player when he got to Dutchtown High School in Louisiana, he explained after the Giants defeated the Chicago Bears 22-16 on Sunday for their fifth consecutive victory.
Collins was asked during a postgame press conference when he realized he'd be a good defensive player.
"Back in high school there was a running back called Eddie Lacy," Collins said. "We went to the same high school together. I was a running back since I was 4 years old. So when I got there, there was no running back for me. So I went to safety and I played over there."
Lacy is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher in the NFL who now plays for the Green Bay Packers, although an ankle injury has landed him on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
Collins wasn't completely through at running back when he reached high school, though. As a senior at Dutchtown in 2011, he got to carry the ball again. That season, Collins became the first player to make the Louisiana Sports Writers Association's Class 5A all-state team at two positions -- running back and defensive back. He ran for 1,218 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging 13.7 yards per carry, in 2011.
Collins said he was happy with how things worked out - but he could still carry the ball.
"I can still be a running back if I need to be," Collins said, "but I definitely feel fantastic because I'm doing great at the position and I'm trying to prove I'm one of the best in the NFL."
Collins and Lacy became teammates again at Alabama in 2012. Lacy ran for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns as the Crimson Tide rolled up a 13-1 record and defeated Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS national-championship game that season.
Collins was asked in the Giants' locker room on Wednesday if any of the Alabama teams that he played on were better than the current Crimson Tide squad, which has an 11-0 record and holds the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.
"My freshman year, that 2012 year, that was a great team," Collins said.
When reminded that plenty of pundits are speculating this season's squad might be the best that coach Nick Saban has had at Alabama, Collins said quarterback AJ McCarron set the 2012 team apart.
"No," Collins said about the superiority of the 2016 team to the 2012 squad. "We had a pocket quarterback on that team."
Alabama completes its regular season on Saturday with its annual Iron Bowl meeting against Auburn.
"We win," Collins answered when asked for a prediction on the game. "They always play us hard, I'll tell you that much. It's always a struggle with them. It's always a three- or seven-point game."
Mark Inabinett | al.com | November 25, 2016