METAIRIE - After bouncing from one NFL team to the next from 2008 through 2010, nomadic fullback Jedidiah “Jed” Collins appears to have found a home in the unlikeliest of places.
The end zone.
Make that the “Benz-Zone,” as in the newly-named Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home of the Super Bowl XLIV champion New Orleans Saints.
Collins, a 25-year-old former tight end from Washington State, scored on a 1-yard run with 10:39 remaining in the second quarter of Sunday night’s 62-7 demolition of the hapless Indianapolis Colts.
In and of itself, that touchdown is no big deal, merely one of eight scored by five Saints during the nationally-televised game.
But it marks Collins’ third touchdown this season on just five touches from scrimmage, a remarkable achievement considering he’d never touched the ball in a regular-season game during six prior stops around the NFL.
Not once. Not in Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland (twice), Kansas City, Arizona or Tennessee.
Collins will attempt to add to his touchdown total Sunday when the NFC South-leading Saints (5-2) travel to St. Louis to face the winless Rams (0-6) in the Edward Jones Dome.
“I don’t think I’ve been doing anything spectacular to get that (touchdown-to-touches) percentage,” said Collins, one of two fullbacks on the 53-man roster along with Korey Hall. “That’s just getting the ball in good situations, and it shows the importance of getting your number called in the red zone.
“It’s been a surprise, a shock, I guess you could say, but it’s been a good thing. I love it here. I just happened to fall in the right place, in the right situation, with a team that enjoys finding their ￔguy.’ This team has that ￔone man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ kind of philosophy.”
For now, Collins and his wife, Kira, call metro New Orleans home, having celebrated their one-year anniversary in town with a glass of champagne on Sept. 23, the date he joined the Saints practice squad in 2010.
The current 13-month stay represents their longest in one place since Collins was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Eagles in 2008.
“A lot of guys in this league come through the front door, through the draft, and I’m not one of those guys,” said Collins, who’s been cut 13 times, twice by the Browns. “I had to come through the back door and kind of break down that door.
“Nothing is given to you in this business. Even now, we’re going into Week 8, and people are trying to tell me to relax, that I’m playing well and I’m doing well. But I’m not comfortable with my position. I’ve been blindsided before, and I’ve been hurt in this business before. So, I’m still excited every Tuesday when 4 o’clock rolls around and I’m still on the roster for another week.”
Collins has reached this station in life because of his ability to play fullback and contribute mightily on special teams and his refusal to take “no” for an answer. His motto is simple: “You’ve got to mow your own grass, keep your eyes down and keep grinding.”
“The one thing you value as a coach is you know what you’re getting with a player, and I think Jed is a great example of that,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
“When we game plan on Mondays and Tuesdays and we decide on personnel groupings and assignments and schemes, when it involves a player like Jed, you know exactly what he can do and what he does very well. Then, it just becomes a matter of plugging in and putting him in those positions.”
Though Collins never lost faith in himself, he did wonder if he’d be given a legitimate opportunity to make the roster once the NFL lockout ended.
“The lockout was taking away the chances I had to continue my dream,” Collins said. “Guys like me have to know the playbook inside and out, and we have to be in front of the coaches as much as possible to try to make the team.
“I spent most of my time during the (lockout) trying to prepare for what would happen if football wasn’t in my future. I actually started taking classes to be a certified financial planner. That’s the approach I had to take. I love football, and I hope it works out, but come September if we didn’t have football, I was going to have to pursue other things.”
But he earned a roster spot, which is allowing his dream to continue.
“It’s been a lot of hotels, a lot of extended stays and a lot of apartments for Kira and me,” Collins said. “Last season, we got to stay in our apartment for three months. That was definitely our longest stay at one address. Before then, it was a month and a half in one place, a month and a half somewhere else and so on.
“It’s a very personal battle and a mind game every day. Every day is tough, because a lot of people are telling you ￔno,’ and you have to keep telling yourself that this is a dream that you can accomplish.”
“My career hasn’t gone the way Kira and I have planned, or hoped,” he said. “But now that we’re here, on this team, I don’t think either one of us would have changed it for the world.”