Former Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins, whose undefeated 1994 team averaged 47 points a game, will be honored Tuesday night as part of the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame class.
He’ll join 12 other fellow HOF’ers — such as Michigan DB Charles Woodson and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer — at the 61st National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner in midtown Manhattan, along with 13 student-athletes who are vying for the “Academic Heisman” in the William V. Campbell Trophy. (Current QB Trace McSorley will also be in attendance, and fans can live-stream the awards dinner at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN3.)
The NFF sat down with Collins ahead of the dinner and distributed the interview to the media. Here’s a transcript of the Q&A with Collins and his thoughts on McSorley, his induction, country music, and more.
National Football Foundation: What does it mean to you be a part of this Hall of Fame class?
Kerry Collins: To be inducted into the College Hall of Fame is an absolute honor and a total thrill. To know about the Penn State players who came before me and are now in there — of course, Joe (Paterno) being in there — it’s an extremely awesome honor. And what a thrill and what a privilege to be part of this class.
NFF: What distinguishes Penn State from other programs out there?
KC: We always try to do things a certain way. Of course, it goes back to Joe Paterno and his beliefs and values. There’s a certain way he expected you to play football. It was hard-nosed football, and it wasn’t very fancy. He expected you to play hard all the time, be accountable and be a tough opponent to beat. He believed in doing the little things right, and I think that showed in the way we played and the way that the program’s had success over the years.
NFF: As a high school senior, would you ever have imagined you’d have the career you had and be here?
KC: Listen, I was just happy to be joining a place like Penn State. Being a Pennsylvania kid and growing up watching Joe and his teams, I always respected and admired the program. I was just happy to be a part of it. And then, as time went on and I saw the great players that were coming in with me and coming in behind me, I knew good things were going to happen to that team when I was there.
So, listen, I was the beneficiary of an extremely talented group of people and some great coaches and a great university that provided a lot of support for us. So you think about those decisions that we make and how they impact our lives — and the greatest decision I ever made was to come and play football at Penn State.
NFF: The 1994 season was remarkable. What made that team so special?
KC: Our 1994 team was special because we were extremely talented, first of all. You look at the number of NFL players that came off our team in 1994, especially the offensive side of the ball, it’s just phenomenal. After that, not only were we talented, but we were extremely hard-working.
We were very selfless; we didn’t have a lot of selfish ego guys on that team. We were willing to work hard day in and day out. If you looked at our games on Saturday and our practices on Tuesday, you couldn’t distinguish between the two as far as speed goes and tempo and effort. So that’s what made us really good. We were willing to come in and work every day as hard as we could and try to be the best player and team that we could be.
NFF: If you had a moment to talk to the current and future Penn State players, what would you say to them?
KC: I would tell them that uniform they put on, it means something. The helmet you put on, it means something. The way you play with that uniform on, it means something to a lot of people. There’s a long history of what Penn State is and what it’s all about, and it’s important to carry that on. It’s very important to carry the tradition on, the values, what it stands for and I think Coach (James) Franklin and the squads he’s had recently are doing it. So it means a lot to a lot of guys to watch our team and know they’re doing it the right way.
NFF: Speaking of the team and great traditions, they had a very special QB the last few years. How do you think Trace McSorley will be remembered?
KC: Trace McSorley has been someone I’ve really admired. Great competitor, plays with a lot of heart, played through injuries, played as a young guy and really has grown and matured into an unbelievable leader. And Trace McSorley has had the best career at Penn State for any quarterback that’s ever played there. He’s done it for three years, won a lot of games. So, like I said, Trace has had the best career of any quarterback that’s gone through there.
NFF: That’s saying a lot.
KC: It’s the truth.
NFF: What skills has he exhibited that’ll translate to the NFL?
KC: His competitiveness, first of all, is tremendous. He brings a lot of heart to the game. He’s a smart football player, he’s a tough football player. He’s proven he can win in a major college; that means a great deal. So I hope when he gets his chance that people see him for what he is — and that’s as a great competitor and a great quarterback.
NFF: I’ve got to ask you a New York Giants question. What does it mean for you to be back in New York?
KC: It brings back a lot of great memories to be back here in New York. My years with the Giants were fantastic. I loved playing for Mr. Mara and the Mara family, and they stand for so much. And what a great organization — and we had some good teams. We had a lot of good teams and success on the field. Getting to play with guys like Tiki Barber and Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Jesse Armstead on defense, Michael Strahan — what a really, really talented bunch of guys and we had some good years. We had some good times and a lot of big times, and it was a real thrill for me to play here.
NFF: Talk to me about your country music career.
KC: Well, you know, there are songwriters everywhere in Nashville. And they’re great. They’re very open to new people coming in and writing. And i just happened to meet somebody and I said I’d love to write songs sometimes. I’ve written songs, but I consider myself a fairly decent writer. “Oh yeah, I’d love to, I’d love to.” So I just got together and it just kind of went from there. I had people helping me get co-writes and everything.
And what a tremendous experience. I got to write with some great writers. The whole idea of crafting a song and turning an idea into a song was really, really a great experience for me. And Nashville’s a great town; very welcoming, very accepting. And I had some success. I had probably 12-15 different cuts nobody’s ever heard of but, you know, there was a little bit of success without hitting that big No. 1 single.
NFF: Can people go listen to your cuts somewhere?
KC: They’re probably out there somewhere. I had a song called “Messin’ Around” that went to No. 7 on the Texas charts, but that’s a whole other music thing down there. Rich O’Toole is a guy that recorded it, so you can probably find that. There’s video of it somewhere.
NFF: You watch Garth Brooks at Notre Dame Stadium?
KC: I saw a little bit of it last night, then I got into the Steelers-Chargers. Man, that guy’s been doing it a long time and still doing it very well.
NFF: What about Kerry Collins playing at Beaver Stadium?
KC: (laughs) My problem was I can’t sing very well. I can write, I can play the guitar a little bit. But I just didn’t have that voice.