Nick Collins was my favorite player on the Packers to watch growing up. He was one of Green Bay’s starting safeties from 2005 through 2010. He played in 2 games in 2011 but unfortunately suffered a severe neck injury while trying to make a routine tackle. Due to the injury, Collins ended up having single level cervical fusion surgery which meant if he returned to the field, another injury could prove much worse. It was hard to see Collins get stretchered off the field and after he retired, many Packer fans wondered what the rest of his career would look like if he never got injured.
Throughout his career, Collins played in a total of 95 games where he recorded 421 total tackles, 68 pass deflections, 21 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries. He even registered 5 total defensive touchdowns. Just by looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see that Nick Collins was an incredible game changer for the Packers defense.
What’s even worse about Collins’ injury was the fact that he was right in the middle of his prime. From 2008 through 2010, the safety made 3 straight Pro-Bowls, and 3 straight Second Team All-Pro teams. He was considered one of the best safeties in the league alongside Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, and Brian Dawkins. In Collins’ prime, he played in 48 games, scored 4 touchdowns and had 17 interceptions. The best play of his career came in Super Bowl XLV when he intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown giving the Packers a two score lead. That play changed the entire complexion of how the Super Bowl was played.
Upon his early retirement, Nick Collins finished 18th in Packers history in picks, 6th in pass deflections, and 5 in defensive touchdowns. Realistically if Nick Collins never injured his neck, he would have had 2 more elite seasons and 3 solid years left for the Packers. I came up with these numbers by looking at similar safeties with the same career trajectories as Nick Collins.
If Collins played in 5 more seasons with the Packers, he would be looked at as one of the greatest defensive players in team history. For example, he would have registered at least 15 more interceptions for his career. Due to his playmaking abilities and what he showcased in the past as a ball hawk, there’s no doubt he could have had a season of at least 6 picks and then averaged at least 2 or more per season for the remaining years. This means he would have finished his career with 36 interceptions as opposed to 21 which would put him 6th in franchise history, just under Charles Woodson’s 38.
Another number that Collins would have racked up was pass deflections. For his career, he averaged about 10 pass deflections per season and if he continued that pace for 5 more seasons he would have finished with 118 for his career. With how good Collins was in his prime and if he continued at that level for even 2 more seasons, he would finish more towards 130 pass deflections which would place him 1st all-time in Packers history. This would be more than guys like Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson, Al Harris, and Mike McKenzie.
Finally, the best part of Collins was the fact it felt like he was always scoring defensive touchdowns. Even if he only scored 2 more for his career, he would have finished with 7 total meaning he would be tied for 2nd with Herb Adderley in Green Bay franchise history. The only player who would have had more, Charles Woodson.
Nick Collins’ injury was a dark day in Packers history. However, even though we never saw him compete after his injury, there’s no doubt that if he continued to play, he would be considered one of the greatest defensive Packers of all-time. In my opinion, he should already be on that list even without all of the hypothetical numbers.