Today in Patriots History
Happy 62nd birthday to Tony Collins
Born May 27, 1959 in Sanford, Florida
Patriot RB/KR, 1981-1987; uniform #33
Pats second round (47th overall) selection of the 1981 draft, from East Carolina
Tony Collins rushed for 4,647 yards with New England , which still ranks as third most in franchise history. By the end of the 1987 season his 32 rushing touchdowns was the third most (tied with Curtis Martin for sixth most now). He was also adept catching the ball out of the backfield, at one top holding the club record for receptions by a running backs with 261 (now 3rd), ranks fourth in receiving yards (2,356, behind only Kevin Faulk, James White and Larry Garron). At that time the 261 career receptions was the third most in team history overall regardless of position, and today still ranks as 14th most. Collins also had 12 receiving touchdowns, a franchise record for running backs that lasted for more than two decades. (White and Faulk are the only RBs with more.)
Collins also had 1,520 touches (third most), 7,003 yards from scrimmage (fifth) and 8,353 all-purpose yardage (sixth) with the Patriots, and his 44 touchdowns ranks seventh on the career leader board. Tony Collins was named to the 1983 and 1984 Pro Bowls, and is a member of the New England Patriots All-Decade Team for the 1980s.
Dec 13, 2012:
FOXBORO — Tony Collins rolled up more than 7,000 all-purpose yards as an elite running back for the New England Patriots during the 1980s.
In high school and college, he strove to spend more time in the weight room than anyone else, to be first on the field and last off it. Holder of multiple records at East Carolina University, he was drafted in the second round by the Patriots in 1981 and became an instant starter.
But while success seemed to come easily to the young man from ECU, injuries began to take their toll. Collins began taking pain killers for his neck, but found they nauseated him. A friend recommended marijuana, which seemed to relieve his discomfort. But it wasn’t enough.
“Then the marijuana turned into cocaine, and that took away everything I loved,” he said.
The public learned of Collins’s drug abuse almost immediately after the team lost its first Super Bowl to the Chicago Bears in 1986, when the Boston Globe carried the news that six members of the AFC Champion Patriots team had tested positive for drugs.
Collins was banned from the league for a year after testing positive a third time for marijuana and cocaine. He was later reinstated, but a move to the Dolphins didn’t work out because of Collins’s damaged knees.
Collins said pride and his self-image as a football star probably interfered with him getting help in fighting drug use.
“I thought, ‘hey, I’m Tony Collins. I can handle my problems. I’ve got this,’ ” he said. “Well, I didn’t have it. It had me.”
The former star running back said he began to master his addiction and turn his life around seven years ago, when he met his current wife. He said she had a “different way of thinking about life” that made sense to him.
Oct 29, 2015:
Former New England Patriots running back Tony Collins spoke to Toll Gate juniors and seniors on Tuesday morning about hard work, perseverance, sound choices and learning “to love to be …
His work wasn’t done yet. He entered training camp third on the depth chart behind Vagas Ferguson and Horace Ivory, but he said, in his mind, he was always the No. 1 running back.
In the second week of training camp, Ivory got injured. Collins continued to work harder, being the first out on the field and last off of it.
“Felt bad for Horace, felt real good for Tony,” Collins said to laughs from the audience.
Ferguson suffered an ankle injury himself two weeks later, earning Collins the top running back spot on the team. Collins would go on to play in all 16 games, tallying 873 rushing and 232 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
Collins had the best year of his career in 1983. He made the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns while picking up 257 yards through the air as well.
Then, in 1984, Collins had to make a difficult choice. He had suffered cracked ribs early in the season, and either had to sit down like Ivory and Ferguson before him and have his job taken away, or go on painkillers. He chose the latter, opting to receive cortisone shots before and during games as well to numb the agony.
“When the medicine wears off, wears down, I’m in so much pain that I can’t even go to sleep, that I cannot even breathe,” Collins said. “So I have to take all these painkillers just to go to sleep. And I’m taking painkillers all through practice and all through the year, and the painkillers were tearing up my stomach.”
As he became addicted to painkillers, he also began smoking marijuana to relieve nausea. He ended up being randomly tested by the NFL, failing two drug tests and getting cut by New England after the second infraction in 1988.
He was signed by the Indianapolis Colts the next day and promised himself that he would stay clean after receiving a second chance. If he failed another drug test, he would have been suspended an entire season, so he stayed away from marijuana. However, he chose to attend a party four weeks into training camp and, despite not actually smoking any marijuana, the secondhand smoke around him was enough to result in a third failed drug test.
He played one more season in 1990 for the Miami Dolphins before retiring, he said, as a “failure.”
Jan 29, 2013:
NEW ORLEANS — Tony Collins could never forget how he got his job, which is a large part of the reason he lost it . . . and nearly his life along with it.When the former Patriots…
Feb 11, 2016:
Tony Collins sat in the principal’s office of the Edward Everett Elementary School on Pleasant Street last Thursday. His hands folded, a Pro Bowl ring prominent on his right pinky, the former Patriots running back listened quietly as the principal explained why she invited him to speak to her...
Former Patriots running back Tony Collins joins the next Pats from the Past podcast presented by Who but WB Mason. Learn about the Patriots player who impressed him the most when he entered the NFL. What it means to still hold the 36-year-old rushing reco