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Bill Haisten: TU’s Zaven Collins training for first-round prestige and a $6.5 million phone call

Bill Haisten: TU’s Zaven Collins training for first-round prestige and a $6.5 million phone call

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In mock first-round draft lists released by the NFL Network and ESPN, University of Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins is projected to be selected 26th overall by the Cleveland Browns. 

While I’m the first to complain that the NFL draft gets too much coverage, I’m also the first one who clicks on updated mock drafts.

On Wednesday, while glancing occasionally at the Tampa Bay Bucs’ Super Bowl celebration, I surveyed 2021 mock-draft, first-round lists formulated by Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network and Todd McShay of ESPN.

They were in agreement that Trevor Lawrence is the first-pick-overall star of this draft. Jacksonville’s Urban Meyer experiment begins with the splashy selection of Clemson’s 6-foot-6, 220-pound QB, who on 1,138 college pass attempts was intercepted only 17 times.

The Brooks mock and McShay mock were in agreement also at the No. 26 position in the first round. They both have the Cleveland Browns taking University of Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins.

You’ve read and heard the Collins story. How his path began as an overlooked Hominy High School athlete.

How TU rolled the dice on a rangy, multi-sport kid with no clearly defined football position.

How Collins developed into a starter, and then into an impact player, and then in 2020 into TU’s first All-American since 1991 and the recipient of the Nagurski Trophy and Bednarik Award.

In November, the Tulsa World’s Kelly Hines wrote the definitive story on Zaven Collins.

“I’m just grateful to be here,” Collins told Hines. “If not, I would probably still be in Hominy, working in the oilfield or doing something along those means.”

When Collins signed with TU in 2017, only a dreamer could have envisioned his 2021 status: that he would be in Dallas, training daily for upcoming draft-related workouts and striving to sustain or improve his position in the first-round order.

As there won’t be NFL Combine workouts this year, on-campus Pro Day events carry heavy significance. TU, OU and Oklahoma State all are expected to host NFL scouts for Pro Day exercises, but dates and details have not been announced. The likely window for Pro Day workouts: sometime in late March or early April. The NFL draft is scheduled for April 29-May 1.

Collins seems to be the only Oklahoma athlete with a real chance at first-round prestige and money.

None of the draft-eligible Oklahoma State guys is projected as a first-rounder. In 16 years with Mike Gundy as the head coach, there never has been more than four Cowboys taken in any draft.

This year, at least five and maybe as many as seven Cowboys should be drafted. Tylan Wallace is the most intriguing figure in OSU’s 2021 draft group. I would love to know NFL opinions on Chuba Hubbard, whose phenomenal 2019 season was followed by a disappointing 2020. Dillon Stoner will be very impressive in a combine setting like a Pro Day.

Offensive tackle Teven Jenkins will be drafted. Amen Ogbongbemiga and Rodarius Williams probably will. Calvin Bundage has NFL speed and physicality, but he hasn’t stayed healthy.

In three drafts since Lincoln Riley became the OU head coach, 16 Sooners were drafted. Five were first-rounders: Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb and Kenneth Murray.

This year, as a second-round projection, center Creed Humphrey probably is the first Sooner off the board. Ronnie Perkins is viewed as a fourth-round edge rusher and Rhamondre Stevenson as a fifth-round running back.

Tre Brown and Humphrey reportedly had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl. It was reported that Brown was the best cornerback during the whole week of practice.

Described by Brooks as having the “size, strength and thumping ability (to) help the Browns’ defense go toe-to-toe with its division rivals,” Collins should be the most celebrated of 2021 draft picks from Oklahoma.

For a player taken 26th overall, the signing bonus would amount to about $6.5 million. That kind of money would change the lives of Collins and his mom. A first-round selection would cement Collins’ place in TU football history.

No Hurricane player has been drafted as early as the second round since 1992, when edge rusher Tracy Scroggins was a second-round pick of the Detroit Lions. The great Willie Townes, taken by Dallas in Round 2 of the 1966 draft, also is one of the seven Tulsa players who were second-round selections.

Collins is on the brink of being added to the Golden Hurricane’s very short list of first-round picks. Since the advent of the NFL draft in 1936, TU was represented in the first round only by Glenn Dobbs (1943, Chicago Cardinals) and by Steve August (1977, Seattle Seahawks).

Now, there is Collins, whose TU scholarship offer was his only major-college scholarship, and who today is training for the opportunity to get a $6.5 million phone call.

Collins' dramatic play came in double overtime. COURTESY/University of Tulsa


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Sports Columnist

I joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to becoming a sports columnist in 2016, I was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397

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