Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 SEPT. 10, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WHERE HAVE YOU GONE? The personable figure found his role beyond football in acting BY LOU SOMOGYI A ll the football world was a stage for gregarious and affable 1972‑74 Notre Dame linebacker Greg Collins, so it was apropos he would also find his calling as a Hollywood actor for the last three‑plus decades. During his playing days that were highlighted by the 1973 national title plus a 1974 captaincy, and was fol‑ lowed by a second‑round selection in the NFL Draft, Collins performed with a passion that became con‑ tagious to everyone, even 1969‑85 Fighting Irish linebackers coach George Kelly. The longtime coach and adminis‑ trator also mentored All‑Americans Bob Golic and Bob Crable, who in 2017 was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame. "I have never been around a kid who had so much joy in making con‑ tact," Kelly said of Collins years later. "He was untiring, uncomplaining … I never coached a kid who was better than he was." If Collins — a standout hockey player in high school who still com‑ petes in the game as a 65‑year‑old in California — had any regrets about football, it was that he couldn't play both sides of the ball. "I just loved playing the game. I wanted to be in every play," he said. "My goal was to make every tackle in the game, which is ridiculous. I just wanted to always be where the action and contact were." His 277 total tackles in 1973 (133) and 1974 (144) — not including more than two‑dozen in back‑to‑back bowl wins over 11‑0 and No. 1 ‑ranked Alabama squads — are the best two‑ year total by a Fighting Irish player other than Golic (1977‑78) and Crable (1979‑81). Since the early 1980s, his action has been behind a different lens after a frustrating NFL career and unfulfill‑ ing endeavors in real estate and RV sales. After attending acting workshops in Los Angeles, he received his first role in a football‑oriented commer‑ cial that included Dick Butkus. He landed his first major role as a boxer in the 1980s action‑adventure tele‑ vision series "The A Team," which starred George Peppard and Mr. T. In the years thereafter he would appear on some of the most popu‑ lar television shows, and in the late 1990s became more of a regular on the big screen, including the mul‑ tiple Academy Award‑nominated "The Rock" with Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage, plus "Armageddon," starring Bruce Willis. The latter was a particular favorite while staying in Cape Canaveral for three weeks. THE ROAD TO NOTRE DAME A native of Troy, Mich., and a Catholic, Collins wanted to stay near home for college and opted for the Fighting Irish over Michigan, Michi‑ gan State and Purdue. "My dad didn't watch a lot of games, but he always seemed hap‑ pier when Notre Dame won," Collins summarized of his affinity for the Irish while growing up. After some down recruiting cycles, Ara Parseghian and his staff assem‑ bled their best‑ever class in 1971 with Collins and Co. It was the last group still under the NCAA edict of fresh‑ man ineligibility. As a sophomore, Collins was a backup on Parseghian's worst team, an 8‑3 edition that closed the year with a 45‑23 loss at national champ USC and then a 40‑6 humiliation to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. "As a team, that set us up with the attitude, 'This isn't going to hap‑ pen again!'" Collins said. "There was a resolve in us because it was so embarrassing. I think that's what spurred us on. "I didn't know if I was going to start or play, but I was just going to work hard, trust in my coach and go from there." With Collins' junior class in the forefront, the Irish captured the na‑ tional title. USC's 23‑game unbeaten streak was snapped with a 23‑14 Irish victory in which Collins was named Sports Illustrated's National Defensive Player of the Week, and the 24‑23 Sugar Bowl triumph over Alabama completed the mission. Ravaged by injuries and suspen‑ sions in Collins' senior year as a cap‑ tain, the 9‑1 Irish were still ranked No. 1 in total defense and rushing defense and were matched up again to play No. 1 Alabama in the Orange Bowl for the national title. In the 1974 regular‑season finale, though, a 24‑0 Irish lead evaporated in a stunning 55‑24 loss to USC when special teams breakdowns and a slew of turnovers and big plays led to one of the most amazing swings in mo‑ mentum ever. Parseghian stepped down a little more than two weeks later, making Collins and his teammates even more determined to send him out a winner in the Orange Bowl. While preparing for the game, Col‑ lins was involved in a moped acci‑ dent on Marco Island Beach. He flew over the handlebars and tore open the bursa sacs in his knees, leaving him doubtful for the game. His stitches tore early on, but Col‑ Collins racked up 277 total tackles for the Fighting Irish in 1973 and 1974, not including more than two dozen in back-to-back bowl wins over 11-0 and No. 1 -ranked Alabama squads. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS Greg Collins, 1972-74 Linebacker

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