U-D Jesuit’s Collins proving explosive in football, too

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Elijah Collins put all his focus on winning a state basketball title for U-D Jesuit last year.

Mission accomplished.

Now, he’s got his sights set on duplicating the feat — on the football field.

Collins has been one of the biggest surprises in the state, playing multiple positions to help U-D Jesuit start 4-1 heading into Friday’s showdown against Warren De La Salle, which has won 10 straight in the series.

“Elijah is a very explosive football player,” U-D coach Oscar Olejniczak said. “Every play he is a part of there is a chance something exciting will happen.”

Collins plays offense and defense, piling up the numbers — 435 yards rushing, 120 receiving, 12 touchdowns, one touchdown pass.

Last week against St. Joseph, Collins rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-13 rout.

“I’m a playmaker,” Collins said. “I play cornerback, linebacker, return kicks and I’m a running back and receiver. I like the challenge of playing different positions. I’ve played middle and outside linebacker and it’s really physical, where 300-pound linemen are trying to take your head off. When you play cornerback, it’s all about technique and using your hands more.”

Not bad considering Collins was scrawny as a a freshman — “I was a little frail ... came to high school and got knocked around in varsity sports,” he said.

As a freshman, Collins was 6-foot and 150 pounds.

Now he’s 6-2 and 195 — and he’s making opponents pay.

Collins scored six touchdowns against Holy Trinity in Week 3 — a 75-yard kickoff return, a 44-yard reception, an interception return, and three rushing scores.

“I like running back a lot, feels like breaking loose and scoring touchdowns comes natural for me,” Collins said. “I feel once I can get outside I can get to the sideline and beat you.”

And, college coaches are noticing.

Collins received his first two offers last week — from Iowa State and Central Michigan.

“It was very exciting,” Collins said of the offers. “My first Division 1 offers, proving all the hard work pays off.”

U-D basketball coach Pat Donnelly also believes Collins will get Division 1 offers on the hardwood, too.

“He’s a freak athlete, strong, fast and shifty,” Donnelly said. “I’m just a fan in terms of football, but you can see his superior athleticism where he chases down running backs with his speed. He just has another gear. You knew the potential was there, but he’s really having fun playing.”

As far as basketball goes, Donnelly is excited.

“You’re going to see a different Elijah on the basketball court this year where he’ll be much more than a defensive stopper,” Donnelly said.

“He’s going to be a much better scorer where he’s stronger and is going to attack the basket. He had a great spring and was impressive in summer camp, too.”