For years, Lawrence Phillips has been the poster child for athletes gone bad, especially at Nebraska. While Phillips infamy is better known, he's not the worst example of a Nebraska football player. He's not even the most infamous Husker I-back, or even the worst person to wear #1 at Nebraska. No, that dishonor now belongs solely to Thunder Collins, who was convicted today of first degree murder. Collins will be sentenced on November 12th.
Nebraska fans have occasionally taken their shots at athletes behaving badly at other programs. Certainly Colorado's Rae Carruth is worthy of disdain, and Husker fans in the past certainly took their shots at that wayward Buffalo. Now Husker fans have one of their own that fans would just as soon disown. Which is worse: conspiring to kill the mother of your unwed child, or murdering a man in a drug deal gone bad? Don't answer that. Both are horrible acts in a civilized society?
Collins claims he wasn't the shooter, but that's not the point. Under Nebraska law, being found present when a murder occurs in the commission of a felony is sufficient for a first degree murder conviction. Collins has had every opportunity to clear his name, either by identifying the shooter or testifying in court. He declined to do so, claiming
"No justice. No justice. I’m the victim. I’m the victim, here. They know I killed no one. Of course, they got the wrong guy. I’m not no snitch. I’ve got dignity. I will get another trial."
In the end, justice was served today. Collins will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars for his actions last September. Maybe he's not the actual gunman, but that's immaterial at this point. He had his chance to prove otherwise, and refused. The evidence presented was more than sufficient to show that Collins was involved in illegal activities, and claiming innocence is simply pathetic. If you can stomach it, you can watch and listen to Collins "press conference" from the Douglas County Jail today (courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald)
It would be easy to title this post "Thunder Collins: Worst. Husker. Ever." But that would bring an air of flippancy completely out of place in this situation. There's nothing funny about murder, armed robbery, and cocaine dealing.
So is this where the Thunder Collins saga ends? Ten years ago, Collins was a highly rated junior college prospect. The Pinnacle Sports Network spent much of the summer of 2000 pumping the Collins name. Would his "theme song" be Garth Brooks "The Thunder Rolls" or AC/DC's "Thunderstruck"? After his first game, a caller to the Frank Solich post-game radio show asked if Collins would be starting the next week, which caught Solich off guard at the time. Collins never lived up to the hype of that summer, and until last year, might have been best known for his part in "Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass" against Oklahoma that helped Eric Crouch win a Heisman Trophy.
Now his place in history is set, and it's nothing to be proud of.
Thunder Collins. Convicted Murderer.