Bruce Collie's Wildness and Return to Faith

Arne ChristensenContributor IIOctober 19, 2008

(This is the second of a set of three articles I’ve written on 49er players from the ‘80s and their different experiences with the rougher side of life away from football. They’re all adapted from my blog on the 49ers of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The third article, on Dwight Hicks, is 49ers-and-drugs">here.)

Offensive lineman Bruce Collie was introduced to the 49ers’ press just after being drafted in the fifth round in 1985 (it was the same draft that gave the 49ers Jerry Rice) as a rough-houser from Texas, who lived hard and shouldn’t be messed with. He could squat 650 pounds and bench-press 470, and he sported a 20.5-inch bicep.

Collie had gotten stabbed in 1982 in a late-night San Antonio incident. He said of that: “When you’re lying in a hospital, holding your belly together, it makes you think about what’s important. I did a lot of growing up in college. I’ve never met a freshman football player who wasn’t on the wild side. I’ve changed a lot in the last few years.”

He’d gone to Texas-Arlington and been a standout tackle there, then used his ambition to become a 49er starter in 1986 and acquire some cars and houses along the way. Before the 1987 season, he related a few ways in which he hadn’t completely settled down since leaving college.

During the offseason, he’d taken a helicopter ride down into the crater of Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano, with the heat so intense it buckled the helicopter’s canopy, taken a stunt-flying trip with pilot and 49er teammate Russ Francis in a biplane, and fallen off a Texas cliff 100 feet down into the Rio Grande, landing on his back.

Collie said about that experience: "I had a rock come off on me, and I just pushed off and fell into the river. I landed on my back, and it knocked the wind out of me. I could have been killed, I guess."

Those sorts of thrills weren’t the entire truth. Collie would later say: “No matter how many women I was with or how many drugs I did while partying, I couldn’t fill this void. So I thought a Super Bowl ring would fix it.”

Like Eason Ramson (whom I wrote about here), Collie’s reformation wasn’t complete. Before the 1991 season, Collie acknowledged using steroids in the ‘80s and drinking in the middle of 49er training camps.

He and the 'Niners won the Super Bowls of 1989 and 1990, and Collie started on the 1989 49ers. As of the summer of 1990, Collie had gone through his life as only a casual Christian, but his mom, Lexie, spurred him to a conversion that summer. Collie got waived by the 49ers just before the season started, went to the Eagles and began studying the Bible with Reggie White in Philadelphia and intensifying his faith, was married within a couple of months, and has a dozen kids now, back home in Texas.

You can read more about the turnaround here. Collie now owns the Cedar Grove Steakhouse in Wimberley, TX, after having spent time ministering in prisons.