The short-term pain of losing left tackle Anthony Collins and cornerback/receiver Aqib Talib to the NFL draft can be softened with a look at how it impacts the future of the Kansas football program.
Both players signed with KU as unheralded, two-star prospects. Four years later, they are ready for the NFL. Elite high school prospects look first at football factories. Kansas now qualifies as one.
Another potential bright side: Their early departures could boost the sad-sack Kansas City Chiefs, who would do well to snag Talib early in the second round and Collins early in the third round.
- Tom Keegan
Anthony Collins couldn't hide his excitement. After all, Mama is about to eat.
Collins and Aqib Talib, both juniors on Kansas University's football team, each confirmed Monday that they will skip their senior season and enter the 2008 NFL Draft.
"I'm done with KU," Collins said when reached on his cell phone. "I loved every minute of it. I enjoyed my time here. I enjoyed working under coach (Mark) Mangino. I felt like there was nothing else to prove. I felt like I need to get better at the next level."
Collins - nicknamed "Mama's Gotta Eat" because of his daily push of making it to the NFL to support his family - hopes to cash in on the big money that offensive tackles can make in the league. He certainly accomplished plenty in college, being named a finalist for the Outland Trophy and getting named to multiple All-America teams.
As an athletic 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle, Collins will attract plenty of attention. He said he's aiming to be a first- or second-round pick, which would come with a big signing bonus and a nice paycheck.
Granted, he's no lock to be selected that early. But he said that his decision to go pro still wasn't all that difficult for him.
"It was difficult to the point of breaking the news to my family and stuff like that. It's going to be difficult finishing these 18 hours to graduate, because I will do that," Collins said. "But it wasn't really (a hard decision) at all. I figured if it's time to get better, it's time to get better at the next level."
Talib felt the same way. KU's All-America cornerback long had been considered a near-lock to go pro if his junior season was productive and injury-free. It was both.
"Kansas gave me a chance to get a good job," Talib said in a news release. "Coach Mangino, (assistant) coach (Bill) Young and the team helped set me up so that I have a chance to get a pretty good job next year. It was an opportunity I needed to take."
Talib enjoyed a sensational career for the Jayhawks, earning a starting cornerback job midway through the 2005 season and quickly becoming one of the program's top talents.
He intercepted 13 passes in his career and broke up 51 more. Two of the picks were returned for touchdowns this season, including a 60-yard pick-six in the Orange Bowl that set the tone for a big Kansas victory over Virginia Tech.
With the help of associate athletic director Chris Howard, Talib submitted paperwork to the league's advisory committee and was projected to be a second-round pick in the NFL Draft, which starts April 26 in New York.
It was high enough to convince him to take the leap.
"Aqib has had a great career here at Kansas and he has had a big impact on our program," Mangino said in a statement. "I wish him the same kind of success at the next level that he had here in our program. I completely support his decision."
Talib's father, Theodore Henry, said that Monday was "the second-happiest day of my life" behind only the birth of Talib.
He said that Talib starring for a 12-1 team and staying healthy was a fitting conclusion to his college career.
"God has blessed him and not let him get injured," Henry said. "It's time."
Collins said he will continue to take classes in the spring while he trains for an NFL career. He then reflected back to the promise he and Talib made almost five years ago, when the two came to KU on an official recruiting visit and instantly became friends.
"We always told each other," Collins said, "'If we come together, we're going to leave together.'"
Turns out, they weren't lying.