Three Years Later, Landon Collins And Mom Still Aren't Quite On The Same Page
On Friday night, former Alabama safety Landon Collins' dream was realized, as the New York Giants traded up to select him with the No. 33 pick in the NFL draft.
Collins was in Chicago for the big announcement, surrounded by family, including his mother, April Justin. Just days earlier, Collins wasn't even sure his mom would attend the draft.
The two have been a bit estranged of late, and the draft wouldn't have been the first high-profile mother/son public disagreement. Justin became a national storyline, when she reacted with disgust that Collins picked Alabama over LSU on live TV.
Earlier this week, Justin told Bleacher Report, "Landon and I are cordial, but we're not where we were because we haven't sat down and had a conversation about this process. He knows I'm pissed about who runs with him in his circle, so he's avoiding me."
"I'm proud of Landon," she continued. "When he walks across the stage to get his degree, I'll definitely be there. This is a football thing, though. When he gets drafted I'll probably be on a Florida beach looking at a different tide."
In the end, Justin booked a flight to Chicago after her son Gerald lured her with promises of a draft week spa event. "My younger son actually called me and was like, 'Mom, they're gonna have all your pampering. You need to come.' So, I was like, 'OK, I'll come.'"
Justin got her nails and make-up done at the CoverGirl Salon Thursday afternoon while Collins was getting his beard touched up at the pop-up Gillette Lounge one room over. Though the two were just a few steps away physically, conversations with them revealed a bit of distance.
Of course, tension between the two is nothing new. Her reaction in 2012 went viral, with blogs and TV channels everywhere picking up the video of her shaking her head and saying "LSU Tigers, No. 1. Go Tigers," while her son put on his Alabama gloves.
Years later, despite Collins' success in Tuscaloosa, she stands by that opinion. "The reason why is not because of the playing factor," Justin said Thursday afternoon from the salon. "If he went to LSU, he would've done what he did at Alabama. Wherever he went, Landon was going to be outstanding, 'cause that's who he is. I look at life after football and if you look at that, between Alabama and LSU, success for football players is just phenomenal with LSU. Landon's football career will end one day, and I need him to still be successful. LSU has put out a lot of successful football players."
Justin was hoping Collins would go to the Dolphins, and even had the location picked out for her season tickets if Miami had selected him. She joked about stashing a Dolphins hat to bring to the draft, but said Collins had actually already warned her not to make draft weekend a replay of 2012.
"I don't need that to be done all over again," said Collins. "This is a different moment, different time. She already had that moment. Now everybody that I talk to says, 'Hey, are you that person with that mom that went off?' I don't wanna hear that when I'm playing football."
Justin understands that the older her son gets, the more choices she'll have to let him make on his own. But she's still going to make her opinions heard. "He's gonna grow," she said. "You have to make mistakes in order to grow, so I'm gonna have to let him make his mistakes. But I'm gonna voice my opinion, 'cause I'm mom. At the end of the day, I'm a mother. I'm not a fan. And at the end of the day, when all this goes away, Mom is gonna be here."
And what does Collins say about his mom's willingness to voice her concerns over his friends and associates?
"I'm older, so I have my opinion and choices to make as a man and I have to live with my decisions," he said.
Well, at least the two have fashion to talk about. Collins admits his sense of style comes straight from Justin, who works as a costume designer and stylist for motion pictures. "I pick up my style from her and I get my jewelry style from my Dad," said Collins. "When she dresses I kind of pick up her style."
The two cut a striking figure on the gold carpet Thursday night, with Collins decked out in a navy suit and Mom on his arm in a sequined, one-shoulder gown. "I'm gonna be best dressed, put it that way," said a confident Collins just a few hours before heading to the Auditorium Theatre on Thursday. "I gotta take after my man, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He was best dressed last year and I gotta keep up with him."
As the first round was about to start, Collins and Justin agreed they're likely to grow closer now as the draft process wound down and Collins landed with a team. He plans on visiting her at home in Florida for Mother's Day, and she can't wait to watch him on Sundays -- even if it will be mostly in New York, instead of Miami.
"It's a dream come true for my son," Justin said. "And I just want him to be successful and have fun with it and start another legacy. He left a legacy at Dutchtown High School, he left a legacy at Alabama, and now it's a new chapter. I just want him to be his best and give back to his community."