GEISMAR, La. -- In his high school of roughly 1,500 students Landon Collins is a rock star. Everyone wants a photo, hug or handshake. That's why it was hardly as surprise when shortly after receiving his Under Armour All-America Game jersey in a packed Dutchtown High School cafeteria, he was besieged by everyone.
"You know I love that," Collins said. "It's not like I am a guy that seeks the attention because I don't. I just know that I was the guy to carry the torch here next. And I was proud to do it and I always had a smile on my face. With that comes responsibilities to work hard and be a good role model because there will be nobody behind me that will be next. Hopefully, I provided a good example."
If you ask Dutchtown coach Bennie Saia, Collins did just that.
"I am so impressed with Landon," Saia said. "The thing about him is that nobody will ever out work him and that rubs off on his teammates. With all the accolades and all the attention he didn't ever want to cheat his teammates out of anything. He has always been a young man so focused. Not many elite high school football players can go through what he has gone through and still be the same. Many can't handle it and they lose their work ethic. Not Landon."
Hard work has always defined Collins and is a big reason why he's No. 7 in the ESPNU 150 and the nation's top safety. Thomas Collins, his father, saw it in a young Landon at the ripe old age of five, when he first began to play football.
"This is all so exciting for me and his family," his father said. "I remember watching him when he was five and he began to play football. He was always the best guy out there, even then. He was the MVP of his team at six and at seven and eight he was playing with the older guys. One of those years he returned eight punts for touchdowns and teams stopped kicking to him. It was crazy. But Landon has always worked hard and he made up his mind then that he was going to do whatever it took to make it to the NFL."
Well, he's one step closer. Collins will soon join former teammates Eddie Lacey (Alabama), Eric Reid (LSU) and Kelvin York (USC) to the college football level.
The big question now is where will he end up? Collins has already made his official visit to Alabama. Next up is LSU on Nov. 24 and Texas on Dec. 9. He's also considering Florida and Tennessee, but it appears both the Gators and Vols are on the outside looking in.
"They are all even," Collins said. "This is something that I talk with my parents about on a daily basis. We talk about all the schools. I'm just taking it one step at a time and to be honest, I just want to have fun with it and not stress out about it. This is a once in a lifetime thing."
What amazes everyone who knows him is how well he has handled the pressures of recruiting and being one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation.
"It's been hard," Collins said. "But then it's not. You have to trust the coaches and I have to just figure out where I feel the most comfortable. I will admit I am looking forward to making my decision and getting it over with. I can't tell you how many times each day people ask me where I am going to college. Right now the plan is to announce at the Under Armour All-America Game."
The season just ended for Dutchtown, finishing the regular season unbeaten before losing in the opening round of the playoffs. Saia asked a lot of Collins this fall and Collins delivered in a big way.
"Landon did whatever we asked of him," Saia said. "He played about a quarter of each game on offense and was just a natural running the football for us. He averaged 16 yards a carry. He played defense, returned kicks, was the up back on punts. He did it all."
But believe it or not, it appears Collins does have one weakness.
"The only weakness to Landon Collins is that he's not a twin," said Saia jokingly. "We asked him to be two things, play two different positions. And he did great."
Chris Daigle serves as the Dutchtown defensive coordinator and he believes that no one has seen the last of Collins the football player.
"He was like a coach on the field and the quarterback of our defense. He's so athletic, so fast and so aggressive as a safety. He studies the game and always in the film room," Daigle said. "Collins is such a hard worker, harder than anyone I have ever seen. That kid has an incredibly bright future."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.