With their first draft pick in 1995, Bill Polian and Jerry Richardson decided they needed a quarterback of the future. Collins was highly regarded coming out of Penn State and was the second quarterback taken after Steve McNair went to the Houston Oilers.
McNair was seen as a project with immense talent. Playing at Alcorn State is not exactly the same as playing at Penn State. Collins may not have been as big or fast and his arm was not as strong but he was more polished and NFL ready.
The Panthers were an expansion franchise needing help all over the offensive side of the ball, the Panthers brought in veterans Frank Reich and Jack Trudeau to give Collins guidance and to prevent them from having to play a rookie quarterback with a expansion franchise.
Collins took over the helm in week five and after going 0-5 in their first five games, Collins and the Panther veteran defense led the team to a 7-4 mark from that point on. Collins looked like he would be a stud.
After leading the Panthers to the NFC Championship in their second year and making the Pro Bowl, Collins became a little too sure of himself and let his demons get the best of him. Collins forgot that the NFL is a hard place to be if you are not prepared and paid for it in his third season.
Collins didn't fare much better in the fourth season either. Collins was placed on waivers after a disputed incident in which Collins either asked to sit out for a few weeks or asked to be traded.
Collins career got back on track in 2000 when he led the Giants to the Super Bowl before being destroyed by the Baltimore Ravens. Collins experienced his best stretch of professional football with the Giants and Oakland Raiders.
Collins again made the Pro Bowl at the age of 36 after leading the Titans to a 13-3 record.
While Collins never quite made the impact on the Panthers that most fans would have wanted, he did have a solid career for a guy who battled alcoholism and had marginal stats for stretches. Collins was never flashy and rarely considered one of the best at his job but as the years wore on Panthers fans forgot about the guy who "quit" on their team.
Collins was even mentioned, albeit briefly, as a possible mentor to Cam Newton. Fans were proud of the man that Collins had become and he could have helped steer Newton away from any pitfalls that he himself came across.
While Collins will likely not even get a sniff of the Hall of Fame unless he buys a ticket, he should feel proud of his accomplishments. Although it ended poorly, Panthers fans should recognize that Collins overcame major obstacles to make a career out of the game he loved.
While he was never the franchise quarterback they hoped he would be, the Panthers should be proud that he is associated with the franchise.