Blue Chip profile: Elijah Collins’ return to football pays off

David Goricki
The Detroit News

This is the fifth in a series of profiles on the top 15 players on The Detroit News Blue Chip list. Today: No. 11, Detroit U-D Jesuit running back Elijah Collins.

Elijah Collins has played just two years of varsity football, but competed at an elite level in both seasons to show he has a high ceiling heading as he heads to Michigan State.

Collins played on the freshman team at U-D Jesuit before concentrating on basketball his sophomore year, helping the Cubs win the Division 1 state championship during Cassius Winston’s senior season in 2016.

Collins decided he missed football and went out for the varsity team his junior year. He came through with several big games, including one in which he scored six touchdowns, including a 75-yard kickoff return, a 44-yard reception and an interception return.

It’s safe to say football is Collins’ game, a reason he will be playing in the Big Ten next fall for the Spartans. He picked Michigan State over multiple other national powers, including Wisconsin.

Collins used his sub-4.5 speed to rush for 1,076 yards and nine touchdowns while also getting in on 73 tackles while playing linebacker and defensive back.

“My senior season went well for me,” Collins said, “but for the younger kids it was a learning experience since a lot of them didn’t play anything but freshmen football and it was a big step for them. My highlight was probably the game against Loyola. It was a pretty intense game since it’s kind of a rivalry game, and we came out with a win. I was able to make some plays, get yardage to keep drives alive that led to touchdowns.

“I played all the skilled positions, played corner, safety, linebacker, wide receiver, running back, pretty much all the skilled positions. I’d say my biggest improvement was my physicality, since I put on more weight. I felt stronger and things were easier for me.”

Collins played at 6 feet and 150 pounds as a freshman, then put on nearly 50 pounds over the last three years, playing at 6-2 and 198 pounds his senior season.

“Elijah is an explosive player,” coach Oscar Olejniczak said. “(He) has the ability to reach the end zone anytime he touches the ball.”

“This was my biggest year of getting in the weight room and lifting,” Collins said. “I ran a lot too.”

So, why is Collins headed to Michigan State?

“Michigan State is a great school and when I talk to Coach (Mark) Dantonio and Coach (Dave) Warner, they make me feel welcomed, and I felt like it was a place I should be at,” said Collins, who was recruited to play running back.

Collins has a 3.0 grade-point-average and plans to study engineering.

Now, Collins is trying to help U-D Jesuit win its sixth straight Catholic League title in basketball, averaging 12 points for the Cubs, who are in first place heading into Tuesday’s league showdown with Warren De La Salle.

“Elijah has been great for us since he has returned from his injury,” U-D Jesuit basketball coach Pat Donnelly said of Collins, who suffered injuries to both ankles before returning to help the Cubs win their last five games. “He’s a tremendous athlete that impacts the game at both ends of the floor.”

Collins knows this is his final go-round in basketball. He plans to make the most of it, feeling the Cubs can make a deep postseason run with the return of 6-10 junior Jalen Thomas.

“We need a presence in the post and that gives us another dimension to our game,” Collins said. “We have a lot of guys who can handle the ball. I’ve tried to attack the basket more this season, that and try to set up my teammates.”


No. 15: Taj Mustapha ‘at home’ with Badgers

No. 14: Michael Furtney up front in love for Badgers

No. 13: River Rouge’s Reggie Pearson finds his voice

No. 12: DeAndre Square bigger, stronger for Cass Tech, Kentucky