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Nico Collins on why he left Michigan: 'I felt like I was in no-man's land'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Former Michigan receiver Nico Collins, in his first public comments since opting out this season to prepare for the NFL, said it will be “bittersweet” watching the Wolverines open the abbreviated Big Ten season at Minnesota this weekend.

Collins appeared Tuesday night on “The Adam Schefter” podcast and explained why he decided to opt-out when the Big Ten postponed the season Aug. 11. He said he weighed his options when the season was reinstated last month, but after discussing the situation with his parents, chose to continue preparing for the NFL Draft. He currently is in Pensacola, Fla., training.

Nico Collins

Michigan’s opener is Saturday, and Collins said he will be watching with his parents.

“It will be bittersweet because I want to be out there competing on the football field with my brothers, my teammates, going out and having fun with them,” Collins told Schefter. “I’ll be rooting for them 100 percent. I’m excited to see, hopefully they win — they will win. I believe in them. The grind they put in throughout the summer. I know they worked really hard and it’s going to pay off Saturday.”

After the Big Ten postponed football on Aug. 11, Collins discussed the situation with his parents and signed with an agent.

“Everything was going smooth, just as planned, until this virus outbreak," Collins said on the podcast.

The Big Ten had a few days earlier released a 10-game schedule with Michigan opening at home against Purdue on Sept. 5. As teams prepared to begin padded practices during camp, the season was postponed because of lingering COVID-19 health and safety issues. The eight-game season was announced last month after daily rapid testing was secured by the conference.

“They canceled the season and that was heartbreaking for me,” Collins said, adding the Big Ten wasn’t certain when a season might be played. “They were saying in the spring, Thanksgiving, it was too many unknown questions to be answering. Nobody really had an answer to it.

“I sat down with my family, and I just made a business decision because I felt like I was in no-man’s land, because I came back to play my senior season it and they canceled it.”

Collins had decided to return to Michigan for his senior season rather than head to the NFL after the bowl game and was set to wear No. 1 this fall.

When the Big Ten announced the eight-game schedule, he considered opting back in but the timing didn’t work for him. He had already changed his focus to preparing for the NFL Draft.

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"It was kinda late,” Collins said. “It was eight games straight. I just don’t want to get injured, something bad happen.

"It just didn’t feel normal to me. I felt like everything was forced, almost, pressured. I just made the right decision. I want to be out there playing with my teammates and everything. But I just had to make the best decision that was right for me.”

Michigan right tackle Jalen Mayfield and cornerback Ambry Thomas also opted out. Mayfield decided to return to play this fall. Thomas is preparing for the NFL Draft.

Collins did tell Schefter he likes this Michigan team and believes quarterback Joe Milton will be a strong leader as a first-time starter.

“The team’s very special,” Collins said. “We re-loaded and I feel like the team’s got something to prove. They’re going to prove everybody wrong because I feel everybody has a chip on their shoulder and they’re going to go out Saturday and ball out.”