Collins caps personal comeback with career outing
Updated: Sunday January 14, 2001 10:02 PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- With each step Kerry Collins took on his victory lap around Giants Stadium with the NFC championship trophy in hand, the burden of his troubled past seemed to fade.
No longer were people going to look at him as the quarterback convicted of being a drunken driver and a guy accused of being a racist and quitter.
With one game, everything seemed to change.
Kerry Collins was now the talented quarterback who overcame his problems of two years ago and led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl. He threw five touchdown passes in a record-setting performance in a 41-0 win against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC title game on Sunday.
"Unbelievably excited, but with a sense of remembering what it took to get to this point," Collins said, describing his feelings carrying the trophy. "You get beat up and you get beat down and people call you stuff. Call you 'loser' and call you all that kind of stuff.
"It's going to make you tough, and that's why it made the moment sweet," Collins said.
Collins completed 28 of 39 passes for 381 yards and five touchdowns.
"There have been questions can Kerry step forward and carry this team," Giants head coach Jim Fassel said. "He answered that bell today. No doubt about it. Never a doubt in my mind and he stepped in and did it today. If anybody has any question, they probably did not watch the game today."
The Giants came into the game knowing they needed a big game from Collins against the high-powered Vikings. The 28-year-old quarterback didn't disappoint.
Taking advantage of an injured secondary, Collins hit all three of his passes in driving the Giants 74 yards in four plays on the opening drive. He capped the drive with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard on a fly pattern.
On the first play after the Giants recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Collins found fullback Greg Comella on an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Collins added an 8-yard touchdown pass to Joe Jurevicius and a 7-yarder to Hilliard in the second quarter and a 7-yarder to Amani Toomer in the third quarter. He spent most of the fourth quarter watching Jason Garrett mop up.
"He's come leaps and bounds, leaps and bounds," offensive tackle Lomas Brown said of Collins. "I can't measure how far he's come because it seems he grows every week."
Collins, the fifth pick overall in 1995, has come a long way since signing a $16 million contract with the Giants in February 1999, a deal that included a $5 million signing bonus.
He led the Carolina Panthers to the NFC Championship Game in 1996, but his career turned quickly during the next two years because of an alcohol problem.
It got so bad in 1998 that the Panthers waived him because of poor play and a locker-room confrontation in which players accused him of using a racial slur. There were also suspicions he quit on the team.
Collins eventually signed with New Orleans but he was arrested on drunken-driving charges on a trip back to Carolina.
The Giants took a lot of criticism for signing Collins. It was worth it.
Collins answered countless questions about his past and been a role model off the field since joining the team.
"He wasn't a bad person back then," said Jurevicius, like Collins a Penn State product. "I've said that all along I knew him. He made a change in his personal life. It was a big step for him. He persevered. He had a lot of doubters whether he'd a good football player and he is making all those people eat words."
Collins had the perfect game plan against the Vikings. The Giants came out intending to throw the ball, period.
Offensive coordinator Sean Payton had faxed him the plays on Tuesday night and Collins loved them from the start.
The fax had a private message on the cover sheet: "The best stuff we do," a line from a John Cougar Mellencamp album.
"All we needed to do was execute the things we know best," Collins said. "If we did that we felt we were going to be successful."
With Collins throwing the way he did, there was never a doubt.