RENTON The Seahawks’ second selection in Saturday’s fifth round is one of only three running backs in the history of the Southeastern Conference to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Darren McFadden and Herschel Walker are the others.
Alex Collins of Arkansas became Seattle’s second running back drafted in six picks of their draft. The Seahawks drafted him 171st overall with a compensatory pick in the fifth round.
“I’m pumped up and ready to get up there,” Collins said Saturday morning from his family’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Just getting that call, my heart’s racing. I can’t believe it!”
The 5-foot-10, 217-pound Collins left school with one year of eligibility remaining, after he romped for 1,577 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. In 2013 he was the SEC freshman of the year after becoming the first running back with three straight 100-yard games to begin a major-college career since Adrian Peterson for Oklahoma in 2004.
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Aarone Hineline is the Seahawks area scout who identified Collins as a Seattle fit.
“This kid, we talk about how we characterize our run game, being big, physical, runners that run violent, he fits all those,” Hineline said.
“He fits the (Seahawks’) profile, definitely. ... To add a guy with his talent that far down the draft, it’s awesome.”
And, oh, yeah, Collins is an Irish dancer.
How did he get into that?
“My younger sister,” Collins explained Saturday morning from his home -- which “erupted,” he said, when the Seahawks called.
Doug Gatewood, Collins’ high school coach in Florida, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Collins once offered to take the coach’s daughter to an Irish dance class while her dad had to work -- and that’s when he became intrigued by it.
Collins said while it sounds good to say he does it for football reasons to enhance his footwork, he does it because it’s just fun. He’s even taken on an alias from it.
“Mitchell Finley,” he said, explaining his “other” name was a takeoff from "Michael Flatley, professional Irish dancer.
“When I got into it, I wanted to watch the best and learn from him. I watched ‘Lord of the Dance’ on YouTube a few times, and kind of got it from there.”
It’s the actual Alex Collins and his production in the SEC that attracted the Seahawks. He has a bullish running style -- “he runs with one speed,” is how one pre-draft assessment put it -- that Seattle loves.
With former All-Pro Marshawn Lynch retiring and Thomas Rawls, the 2015 undrafted rookie breakout star, coming off a broken ankle and torn ligaments in December and Christine Michael returning, the Seahawks have stocked up for running-back depth. Friday they selected Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise in the third round. His role will be specific: the former wide receiver and safety will be a pass-catching, third-down back, at least initially.
Collins’ role will be more Lynch-like: pounding yards inside.
The one knock against Collins, besides the fact he started full time just one season at Arkansas, was his 16 career college fumbles
“It was definitely frustrating,” he said. “Most of my fumbles came from my freshman year.”
He said he then did fumble-protection drills each day, before and after practices, and that solved most of those fumble issues.
Like Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett, the Seahawks’ third-round pick Friday, Collins showed quick learning of the essence of Seattle’s NFL experience. I asked him what he thinks when he heard “Seahawks” on that life-altering call Saturday. I was thinking he’d say “Super Bowls” or “Marshawn Lynch.”
“When I hear Seahawks,” Collins said, “I think ‘12th Man.’
“And a hungry team that likes to compete. I thrive in that ... I love to compete.
“Just being able to be a part of that makes me feel really happy.”