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November 17, 2011GEISMAR - Two years ago Dutchtown's Landon Collins remembers being another face melded into the school assembly that had gathered to cheer on campus star Eric Reid.
Reid, now an LSU sophomore safety, was the man of the hour when the U.S. Army rolled into Ascension Parish and officially presented him with a game jersey for the national all-star game in San Antonio.
"I was right behind the camera man looking," Collins said with a wide grin, noting he was one row from the front where Reid sat. "I wanted to do that. I wanted to be the next guy to do that."
Fast-forward to a week before Thanksgiving and Collins found himself in a similar scenario oni Thursday morning - receiving his official game jersey for the 2012 Under Armour All-American Bowl before a jammed-packed school assembly that also included Reid.
The fifth annual game is set for Jan. 5 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. at 7 p.m.
"(Former Alabama All-American and current Atlanta Falcons wide receiver) Julio Jones and some other great players also wore this jersey," Collins said. "Now I've got to try and make a big name for myself."
Collins, the nation's No. 2 safety by Rivals.com and state's top-ranked player, shared the moment with his father Thomas Collins, along with his mother April Justin and step-mother Jamie Collins, and Dutchtown football coach Benny Saia.
"We've been fortunate to have seen some great players come through Dutchtown High," Saia said. "Guys like Eric Reid, (Alabama running back) Eddie Lacy and (USC commit) Kelvin York. Landon Collins is right there with them."
The Under Armour game features 90 of the nation's top players with 45 of those divided into two teams. Collins is the second player from Louisiana to receive a jersey this week with the Under Armour tour rolling through Edgard on Wednesday to honor LSU commitment Ronnie Feist of West St. John.
LSU will have a total of four commitments in the game with wide receiver Avery Johnson of Pompano Beach, Fla., offensive lineman Vadal Alexander of Buford, Ga. and fellow offensive lineman/deep snapper Reid Ferguson joining Feist.
The Tigers will also have at least of their recruiting targets in the game. Along with Collins will be outside linebacker Kwon Alexander of Oxford, Ala., defensive end Noah Spence of Harrisburg, Pa. and defensive end Channing Ward of Aberdeen, Miss.
Collins, whose birthday is Jan. 10, reiterated his plans to use the game as a stage of sorts to announce his choice of school with his finalists being LSU, Alabama, Texas and Tennessee.
"We're all about education," Thomas Collins said. "Education comes first. Football is football but we want him to have a life after football. It's going to be strictly about education."
Collins will have more time to devote to his recruiting process until his Jan. 5th decision date.
Dutchtown, which went through the regular season 10-0, was bounced from the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs last week following a 28-14 loss to No. 29 Ponchatoula.
Not only did Collins suffer an injury to his tailbone that hindered his productivity but the Griffins uncharacteristically turned the ball over five times in their first-round defeat.
"I kind of got over it," Collins said of the game. "I really forced myself to look at the film. I couldn't really watch it and then I watched it and thought we played a good game. We stopped them three times and made them punt three times and we fumbled three times and threw an interception. Without the mistakes it's our game."
Collins finished with a total of 45 tackles from his safety position with four tackles for losses and four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
Offensively, where Collins played running back for the first time at Dutchtown, he carried 89 times for 1,128 yards (13.7 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns.
"I look at it and say we had a great season," Collins said. "We had another 10-0 season and second district in a row and not a lot of people do that."
Collins has already made one of his official visits to Alabama when the Crimson Tide hosted LSU in a 9-6 overtime victory for the Tigers.
Collins said a week ago he expected to take his official to LSU after the regular season but has moved that official visit to next Friday when the top-ranked Tigers host sixth-ranked Arkansas in a game with high stakes.
It's that allure of the game that caused Collins to change his mind and take his official to LSU next week and follow that Dec. 10 with a scheduled visit to Texas and then Tennessee.
"I'm going to take it next week," Collins said. "It's a big game and I like going to big games."
Collins, who said in an interview with TigerBait.com last week that Alabama was his leader following his visit to the school, said that both schools are currently on equal footing and looked forward to taking the remainder of his visits.
"I say everybody's even right now," Collins said. "Alabama did shock me with what they did, but you have to look at everybody else's school."
Thomas Collins said that although his son will have taken his official visit to LSU next week he could also take more unofficials in the future if need be.
Despite the bitter conclusion to his high school career Collins was on hand for an unofficial visit to LSU's 42-9 win over Western Kentucky.
"You have to move on sometimes," Collins said. "You just can't sit there. I went to the game and it was great. The atmosphere is always fantastic at LSU. Walking into the stadium it looked like it was going to be a lot of people there. I talked to coach (Les) Miles, coach Frank (Wilson) and coach Coop (Ron Cooper). They all came up to me at one time and about to give me a big hug. It was a great feeling."
Collins said he experienced the same sensation when Reid walked into the assembly on Thursday, exchanged a hug with him before drifting to the side of the stage and watched the man of the hour enjoy his day - sort of a role reversal for the two friends.
"Since I played behind him he was the person that motivated me to work hard," Collins said. "I worked with him throughout the years he was here. When he got his jersey for the U.S. Army game it was fantastic and I wanted to be just like him and do the same thing and have all this happen for me, too."