Citrus Bowl: How QB Rickie Collins connects LSU-Purdue | LSU

ORLANDO, Fla. – They have a nickname for the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl around Woodlawn High School. It has nothing to do with the teams playing next week or even the title sponsor. The name coaches and teammates have jokingly thrown around all month referring to their star quarterback, Rickie Collins.

“They call it the Rickie Bowl,” said Collins’ grandfather, Ricky Collins.

There aren’t many connections between No. 17 LSU and Purdue, if any. They never played football against each other until now. They belong to different conferences. The coaching staff don’t share long stories. And they almost never go after the same recruits, with one notable exception in the 2023 class.

Collins committed to Purdue his junior year without feeling genuine interest from the Ed Orgeron regime, and he might have signed in a different world. Then changes happened at Purdue, and LSU’s new staff focused its quarterback search on him over the summer. The Baton Rouge native decommitted in August and picked the Tigers nine days later.

Last week, Collins officially joined a talented quarterback room. Collins, a four-star and the No. 16 overall quarterback in the country according to the 247Sports Composite, will likely redshirt as he develops. Starter Jayden Daniels returned. LSU also has redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier and former top-40 recruit Walker Howard.

“Those guys have been in the program like veterans,” Collins said. “I can learn from those guys and have the chance to compete for a job. That’s all I wanted.”

Before he enrolls early in January, Collins will watch the team he signed with play the one he first committed to. He thought it was “a funny coincidence” when LSU and Purdue got paired in the Citrus Bowl. The year he essentially chose between them, they are playing for the first time on a football field.

His family laughs thinking about it. Who could have predicted this?

“A few days before, my husband said, ‘What if Purdue plays LSU in a bowl game?,'” said Collins’ mother, Precious. “We kind of laughed it off. Then when it was announced, we were like, ‘What?!’ All of our friends on social media were tagging us saying, ‘It’s the Rickie Bowl.’”

Growing up, Collins didn’t exactly pull hard for either team. His grandfather, who ran the youth sports organization where he started turning into a quarterback, said Collins always liked Ohio State. But the Buckeyes never showed serious interest in the laid back dual-threat with a strong work ethic, 40-inch vertical jump and academic honors.

“You show him something one time,” Collins’ grandfather said, “and (if) he doesn’t get it that day, he’s going to take it upon himself to go and work on it and work on it until he comes back to practice, he’s going to have it.”

Purdue wanted Collins. Special teams coordinator and defensive assistant Marty Biagi led his recruitment, and Collins connected with the coach. Biagi had married a woman from New Orleans. He made Collins feel comfortable. Everything seemed genuine with him, and relationships mattered to Collins more than anything as he made a decision.

“Once we got to Purdue, they didn’t have to really do too much,” Collins’ grandfather said, “because Biagi had already won him over.”

At the time, LSU did not show the same level of interest. Collins had to work for a scholarship offer from Orgeron’s staff, only getting one after multiple camps and Woodlawn won a 7-on-7 tournament at LSU for the second straight year in June 2021. Even after Orgeron gave him the offer, Collins favored Purdue .

“It didn’t seem genuine to Rickie,” Collins’ grandfather said. “It seemed like (Orgeron) was trying to please the people or something instead of focusing on him. He wasn’t going to LSU.”

Then the coaches changed at both programs. LSU fired Orgeron last October, coincidentally a week after Collins committed to Purdue. Biagi left to become Ole Miss’ special teams coordinator in March, and Collins’ family heard rumors about major changes coming long before Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm moved to Louisville this month.

“Relationships at Purdue were great, but LSU took the lead in that aspect,” Collins said. “And staying home was ultimately always going to play a big factor.”

The new LSU coaches recruited Collins once they arrived. Quarterbacks coach Joe Sloan already had a relationship with him from Louisiana Tech, and Sloan kept in touch all year, even as he looked at quarterbacks like five-stars Dante Moore and Jaden Rashada. Those quarterbacks chose different schools, and LSU focused on Collins to sign a quarterback in this class.

“They made him seem like he was a priority,” Collins’ grandfather said. “They still make him feel like that.”

“The genuine feeling was there before they started getting aggressive,” Precious Collins said.

Last week, Collins celebrated signing with LSU at Sneaker House on College Drive. Family and friends filled the store. They know the owner well, and Collins has a name, image and likeness deal there. A purple carpet led towards a table surrounded by purple and gold balloons. Giant letters spelling “LSU” stood in front of the area.

Collins walked around posing for pictures and chatting with guests. His family would have gone to watch him play anywhere, even in the cold of West Lafayette, Indiana. But signing with LSU made it a lot easier. They all live in either Baton Rouge or New Roads. They don’t have to travel far to see his college career unfold.

But before it starts, Collins and his family will watch the Citrus Bowl together and see the two teams that factored most into his recruitment.

“Everybody has been asking about how I felt about it,” Collins said. “I’m a Tiger.”

.

Leave a Comment