NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Friday afternoon in NFL locker rooms is considered scram time. Players often take quick showers and dress fast after practice with an eye on a big night out. Friday is the chosen night of most players during the season since they have little to do on Saturday, save for a walk-through or a flight out of town.
The potential fun was even more of a focus on this particular Friday, which happened to be Halloween. In the Tennessee Titans locker room that day, loud music blared from a corner area setting the party tone early, with some players rocking to the hip-hop beat and others singing the words loudly.
|Kerry Collins couldn't deal with the success of being a young, rich NFL quarterback. (Getty Images)|
That was where Kerry Collins, the aging quarterback, sat studying some offensive concepts in preparation for Sunday's game against Green Bay. He seemed far removed from his younger teammates and their thoughts about the night to come.
He was in no rush out the door. It's not that way for him anymore.
Collins was once the life of that party -- or any party. He played hard and fast off the field when he came into the league in 1995 as a first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers. He got caught up in all the trappings that being a young, rich, popular NFL quarterback can bring.
That now seems like a lifetime ago.
It's hard to imagine this man sitting at his locker was once that guy. As many of his teammates prepared for a night out, Collins was preparing for something so much more special to him, which was to take his 4 1/2-year-old daughter, Riley, out trick-or-treating. Filling bags with candy is a lot more fun now than filling glasses with booze.
"I can't wait for that," Collins said. "She's the most special thing I've got going in my life. I can't mess that up. I won't mess that up."
Collins is at a good place in his life. Not only does he have a loving wife and daughter, but he's also the starting quarterback for the only unbeaten team in the NFL. When the season started, it appeared he'd be a backup to Vince Young, his career ending charting plays. When Young got hurt, Collins went in and he isn't giving the job back.
At 35, his is one of those feel-good stories. Collins wasn't sure if he'd ever get another chance to start again. If he didn't get this one, he was ready to hang it up.
"I was either going to find a starting job or that would be it," Collins said. "I was done if it didn't work out."
Some thought he was done a long time ago. This is a man who has dealt with many demons in his day, demons that caused him to seek therapy for stretches, demons that nearly derailed his career.