Every football player strives for the ultimate enshrinement: a plaque and a bust in Canton, Ohio. Paired with a slick, golden jacket, election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is an honor that few have achieved. While a small percentage of those who played the game get a spot among the greats in Canton, a slightly larger number find themselves with a equally honorable spot in Atlanta in the College Football Hall of Fame. This year, a Nittany Lion great will join the fold of the greatest to play the game on Saturdays.
The 2018 College Football Hall of Fame announced it inductees, and among the 13 newest members is Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins. Collins won over 80 percent of his starts as the Nittany Lion signal caller from 1991-1994, going 40-9 in four years, including a perfect 12-0 season in 1994 with wins over #5 Michigan, #21 Ohio State, #14 USC and a Rose Bowl victory over #12 Oregon. Many still believe this to be one of the best Penn State teams of all time, and there is a large percentage of Nittany Lion faithful that feel personally offended by the team not having a chance at the National Title that season.
Collins finished 1994 with 21 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. He threw for nearly 2,700 yards and completed two thirds of his passes. He and teammate Ki-Jana Carter were selected as finalists for the Heisman Trophy that season, finishing in sixth and second respectively behind winner Rashaan Salaam, of Colorado. Despite not winning the Heisman in 1994, Collins did bring home some hardware, taking the Maxwell, awarded to the player the panel feels was the best all-around in the country, as well as the Davey O’Brien, given to the nation’s best quarterback. He was also a first team All-American that season, beating out Colorado’s Kordell Stewart.
He finished his collegiate career with 5304 yards passing, good for third all-time when he graduated. That position has since fallen to eighth with the emergence of quarterbacks such as Daryll Clark, Matt McGloin, all-time passing leader Christian Hackenberg and soon-to-be all-time leader Trace McSorley, who is less than 1,110 yards shy of Hack’s record.
After his collegiate career was over, Collins became the first ever pick of the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995 when the team selected him fifth overall. He played just three seasons with the Panthers, holding both prestigious and less-than-eviable records with the teams. He Collins has thrown the most touchdowns in a game by a Panther’s rookie quarterback with three, and has also thrown the most interceptions in a season, with 21. His Panthers’ tenure was an up and down one, having taken Carolina to the NFC title game in just their second season, but also struggling with those 21 picks a season later.
Collins really made his mark with the New York Giants, leading the team to Super Bowl 35 before falling to the Baltimore Ravens. The next year, he broke the Giants all-time single season passing record with 4,073 yards, a mark that Eli Manning would later break.
After being released by the Giants, Collins bounced around the league before landing in Tennessee, where he rejuvenated his career in the twilight of his campaign. He took the reigns from an injured Vince Young in September, 2008 and led the Titans to a 13-3 record a home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The advantage was short lived, as the Titans were bounced in the divisional round by the Ravens 13-10. That season, Collins surpassed the 35,000 yard mark for his career.
He finally retired after the 2011 season with nearly 41,000 yards passing and 208 touchdowns thrown. He also was picked off 196 times, which, strangely enough, is only the 30th most of all time.
Collins will join 21 other Nittnay Lions previously enshrined in Atlanta. He’ll also enter with some of the greats of the modern era, including Charles Woodson, Ed Reed and head coaches Frank Beamer and Mack Brown. The 13 inductees will be placed among the greats on December 4 at the National Football Foundation Award Dinner.