The 2012 Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles were bad. After finishing the prior year with a 12-2 record, the 2012 version of the team was unable to win even a single game and finished the season 0-12. To find a bright spot on that team, you had to look very closely.
One of those bright spots was a 22-year old senior: Jamie Collins.
Despite being part of an atrocious defensive unit that gave up an average of 37.8 point per game, Collins was – at least at times – dominant in 2012. He led the Conference USA in tackles for loss (20.0) and forced fumbles (4), while finishing third in sacks (10.0). He was named first-team All Conference, even though he played on the conference's worst team.
After his senior season was over, Collins set his sights on the NFL. The first such step was taken when the versatile linebacker, who also played defensive end and defensive back at Southern Miss, accepted the invitation to participate in the 2013 scouting combine. Collins, who was regarded as a gifted but raw athlete while still in college, was spectacular in Indianapolis.
After getting measured at 6034 and 250 lbs with an arm length of 33 3/4 inches, Collins started his on-field workouts with a 4.64 40-yard dash; the fourth fastest time of all linebackers. He went on to record the second best 60-yard shuffle time (11.55) among his positional peers, the fifth best 3-cone drill (7.10) and the 10th best 20-yard shuffle (4.32).
But all those stellar numbers paled in comparison to his performances at the broad jump and the vertical jump.
His vertical jump, the best among linebackers, was 41.5 inches – the fifth best number for a linebacker in the last 10 years. Collins jumped 2.5 inches higher than the second best member of his positional group and trailed only running back Christine Michael (drafted in the second round by the Seattle Seahawks) in 2013:
Collins' most spectacular combine performance came in the broad jump, though.
The linebacker was able to jump 11'7" – by far the best among his position group and a combine record at the time. While his record was broken by Byron Jones' world record 12'3" in 2015, Collins' broad jump is still the best a linebacker has ever had at the combine. In 2013, the next best linebacker – Zaviar Gooden (drafted in the third round by the Tennessee Titans) – was able to get to "only" 10'11".
Collins' broad jump performance was so good, it forced combine management to add a 15-foot line the following year.
Jamie Collins was a standout at the 2013 scouting combine, making him one of the most intriguing linebacker prospects to enter the draft. The New England Patriots agreed and selected Collins with their first pick that year (round two, selection 52). The pick has paid huge dividends since, as the former Golden Eagle was able to transfer his workout performances to the football field to become one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
Just ask the Indianapolis Colts.