MIAMI — It’s hard to say what Landon Collins enjoyed more about his freshman season at Alabama — just getting a chance to play a role on a team vying for the national championship or finally getting the support of his mother to play for the Crimson Tide.
Collins’ mother, April Justin, became a YouTube sensation a year ago when she expressed her unvarnished displeasure at her son’s decision to commit to Alabama on ESPN during the 2012 Under Armour All-America Game.
Since then, though, Collins said his mother has given him her full support. He said she will be in the Sun Life Stadium stands for Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame (7 p.m. CST, ESPN).
“I feel fantastic about it,” the former Dutchtown star said of his first season during Saturday’s BCS media day. “I’m just glad my mom feels better about it now.
“She’s come way around, way sooner than I expected. It’s very big, because my mom is my world. For us to fight about the decision I made, (it’s good) she finally gave in and respected my decision.”
Collins is a strong safety by definition, but just about all of his action this season was on special teams. He recorded 14 total tackles and blocked a punt at Missouri, three times earning special teams player of the week honors from Alabama’s coaches.
Though Collins said Alabama has called for the punt block only four times this season, he has dreamed of breaking through and getting one on college football’s biggest stage.
“Every night, I envision that,” Collins said. “But that’s every game.”
Collins is third on the depth chart at strong safety behind sophomore HaHa Clinton-Dix and junior Nick Perry. He said he plans to return to Alabama after the BCS game and go to work quickly to try to enhance his chances of getting on the field this fall.
“I’m going to work so hard to earn the coaches’ trust to put me on the field,” Collins said.
Making sure that Collins doesn’t get another block will be the responsibility of Notre Dame punter Ben Turk and deep snapper Jordan Cowart, a pair of South Florida seniors who are playing Monday’s game about 10 minutes from their homes.
Both attended Florida prep power St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale — the school captured the Class 7A state title in Orlando last month — along with junior Alabama wide receiver Nick Williams.
“It’s really nice to be home,” Turk said, “to have our family and friends at the game.”
Turk said he’s seen the video of former LSU punter Brad Wing’s penalty-erased touchdown against Florida in 2011 many times, but said he doesn’t fantasize about scoring a touchdown in this game.
“My dream is to have a 45-yard average,” said Turk, who averaged 40.6 yards on 48 punts this season with no blocks.
Cowart has simpler goals.
“My job is not to hear my name on TV,” he said.
Tattooed on one of Mike Golic Jr.’s forearms is the word “FAITH.” On the other, the word “FAMILY.”
Most sports fans know all about Golic’s family. His father, Mike, was an defensive lineman at Notre Dame and co-hosts the “Mike and Mike Show” on ESPN. His uncle, Bob Golic, was an All-American linebacker for the Fighting Irish.
Monday, Mike Jr. will try to do something his dad never did at Notre Dame: win a national title, the Irish’s first since 1988.
“It would mean the world” to win a national title as a Notre Dame legacy, Golic said. “For him (his dad), and all the guys who came before us.”
A backup center, Golic graduated in May with a degree in — what else? — film, television and theatre, and returned to play this season as a graduate student.
“When I got the opportunity, I jumped at it,” Golic said. “You can’t script a better senior season than this.”
One thing that isn’t exactly telegenic about the younger Golic is the bushy beard he’s been growing since August. After the game Monday night, it gets trimmed down to a normal length he said, insisting it hasn’t made him hotter practicing in the South Florida heat.
“For some reason it’s averse to any heat-related effects,” Golic said.
It might not be a surprise if Terry Saban, wife of Alabama coach Nick Saban, brought 15 pairs of shoes with her to Florida for this week’s game.
But that’s actually the number Bama quarterback AJ McCarron has with him on this trip.
“I just like to always change or match or something,” McCarron explained.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly is being mentioned for several NFL openings, but Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made it clear that moving to the NFL is not his intention.
“I think from my perspective I’ve got the best job in the country,” Brian Kelly said. “NFL, college, high school, whatever.
“I’m thankful ... for the opportunity I have.”
Asked if Notre Dame will need the “luck of the Irish” to beat Alabama, Golic said: “We’ll find out. You’d rather be good than lucky.”
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