L.J. Collier selected in first round of NFL Draft

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L.J. Collier, a former TCU defensive end, became the Horned Frogs’ 13th all-time first-round pick when he was selected 29th overall by the Seattle Seahawks Thursday night.

“Man, it was an unreal moment because everyone in there, everybody was anxious, everybody was nervous, we didn’t know what to expect,” Collier said in an interview with ESPN Seattle. “When I got that call people were crying, people were excited. It’s just an unreal feeling. Coming from where I come from, and everything, man, it was very humbling. It was one of the best moments of my life.”

Banners of TCU football greats hang above the north end zone of the Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility. After TCU’s Pro Day, Collier said seeing them inspired him to achieve the position he’s earned today.

“Seeing those things up there when we’re practicing, you’ve got to have a why,” Collier said. “I want to be a part of that, and I knew I could be a part of that. TCU has always had great defensive ends come along, and I wanted to be a part of that so I just had to push through and grind.”

Despite only having one college offer out of high school, the first-team All-Big 12 selection was second on the team last season in sacks (6, a career high) and tackles for loss (11.5). He was third on the team with four pass-breakups, the highest among defensive linemen on the team.

Collier is also the first-ever draft pick from Munday, Texas.

“It’s really a blessing,” Collier said in an interview with The Podell and Pickell Show. “To come from Munday, Texas to TCU to everything I’ve been through there, it’s really a blessing. I just take everything a day at a time and thank God every day for the opportunity he’s given me to play this sport.”

In Collier’s final game as a Horned Frog, he recorded two tackles for loss and a sack in TCU’s 10-7 win over California in the Cheez-It Bowl.

Collier, who burst onto the scene in the offseason after his impressive showing at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, finished his career with 82 tackles, including 20.5 for loss and 14.5 sacks. He will join former teammate Joey Hunt in Seattle, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 draft.

“I may have just slipped under the rug, but that’s what I wanted to do,” Collier said at TCU’s Pro Day. “I believe that I’m one of the best defensive linemen in the draft. I’ve shown that at the Senior Bowl with the best of the best, the best offensive linemen in the country, I ran through them, I ran around them. I think I proved everything that I needed to prove. I proved that I was athletic, I proved that I could drop and catch weighing 280-pounds. I knew that if I played hard, and just the way that my play and my style is, that someone would notice me.”

What may have led Collier to slip under the rug was his limited playing time through his junior year. Collier did not earn his first-career start until his senior year.

“It’s a struggle at times, but it just shows how much dedication you have to put into it and really hone in on your craft and focus on what you really want,” Collier said.

Collier sacks TTU quarterback Jett Duffey. TCU vs TTU. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Collier said his desire for the game kept his confidence up before he earned his first start.

“I knew I wanted it, and I knew I could play,” Collier said. “I stayed true to myself and worked hard that one day I’d get my chance.”

Collier is the fifth first-round pick under Gary Patterson. He is TCU’s first first-round pick since wide receiver Josh Doctson was picked by the Washington Redskins in 2016.

“I knew when I got here, getting to work with Coach P was an honor because I already knew what he could do,” Collier said after his workout on Pro Day. “It’s a defensive school, and I play defensive end, he told me when he came to my high school that he could make me into the best player possible, and I feel like he did that.”

No defensive end from TCU has ever been drafted as high as Collier, besting Jerry Hughes, who was selected at No. 31 in 2010.

Patterson now has had 46 players drafted and a total of 114 in NFL camps over the past 19 seasons, one reason why ESPN rated TCU as the top spot in the nation for developing NFL talent.

“L.J. fits us,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said after the draft in an interview with USA Today. “He’s a heavy-handed, chip-on-his-shoulder guy. He lost his mother when he was a freshman in college and he didn’t play well in the last game that she saw, and he’s always used that to his advantage. He played in a complicated system down there at TCU.”

After playing for Patterson, Collier said he’s very prepared to play at the next level.

“I had a lot asked of me at TCU, so I feel like I’m going to be ready position-wise and knowing my job and just understanding at the next level they ask you to do a lot,” Collier said. “I’m used to holding a pretty big load.”

Collier said Patterson made the defensive linemen cover running backs at times while also having to learn a pro-style playbook.

“I’ve really got a lot to prove still,” Collier said. “Still very blessed. I’m looking forward to the future. This is a dream come true and I’m really trying to just enjoy the moment.”