Kerry Collins was the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft. He led one team to the Super Bowl and another to the NFC championship game. He passed for more than 40,000 yards in his career and threw more than one touchdown for every game he played.
Throughout the course of a 16-year playing career, though, there was always the sense that he had to convince teams of his worth.
Collins ended that career Thursday afternoon when he announced his retirement with a release from his agent.
As recently as last month, Collins said he thought he might play one more season. He was scheduled to be a free agent when the current NFL lockout ends and, therefore, had no guarantees that he would be with a team this fall.
“After 16 fulfilling years of playing quarterback in the NFL, I am officially announcing my retirement from professional football," the statement said, in part. “The past several months have brought on much introspection, and I have decided that while my desire to compete on Sundays is still and always will be there, my willingness to commit to the preparation necessary to play another season has waned to a level that I feel is no longer adequate to meet the demands of the position.
“… I want to wish Mike Munchak and the Tennessee Titans the best of luck in the future. I have had a fantastic five years here, and my family and I look forward to remaining part of the Middle Tennessee community that has been extremely gracious towards us and an honor to play for.”
Collins’ five seasons with the Titans were typical of his career.
He was signed as a free agent just days before the start of the 2006 season, only when team officials decided they did not have a better option on the roster and he had spent the entire offseason in search of a job.
He was 15-17 as a starter with Tennessee, including 12-3 in 2008 which was best mark by a Titans’ quarterback since Steve McNair went 12-3 in 2000. Yet he never managed to maintain a firm grip on the job, though, even as Vince Young squandered several opportunities afforded to him.
In 2009, Collins was the starter as the Titans opened 0-6 capped by a 59-0 loss at New England.
"Kerry had a great NFL career and we have been very fortunate to have had him with our organization for the last five years," Munchak said. "I really enjoyed working with him. He was a true pro, who loved the game. His work ethic and commitment were a great example to his teammates of what it took to be successful in this league."
He started 67 consecutive games for the New York Giants from 1999 through 2003, but an injury not only ended that streak — it ended his time with the Giants. The next season he was in Oakland as the Giants added veteran Kurt Warner and traded for the rights to Eli Manning.
Collins led Carolina to the NFC title contest in its second season but was waived fewer than two years later.
“I would like to thank all of those coaches, players and other team personnel along the way who have shaped me both personally and professionally,” he said.
A battle with alcoholism stalled his career in the early years. He had conquered it by the time he joined the Giants and talked openly and often about it in the days that led up to Super Bowl XXXV.
Collins leaves as a two-time Pro Bowler — once in each conference — who ranks ninth in career completions and 11th in career passing yards.
“I feel very fortunate to have played with and to have been coached by some of the greatest the game has ever seen,” he said. “I feel especially fortunate to have played under some of the true patriarchs of the modern game: Joe Paterno, the late Wellington Mara, Al Davis and Bud Adams.
“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my family, especially my wife Brooke and daughter Riley, for their support. I would also like to extend special thanks to my agent Dave Dunn and the entire staff at Athletes First for their guidance throughout my career.
“Most of all, I would like to thank the fans who have supported me during my time at Penn State and my tenure in the NFL. It has been a wonderful journey, one that I will look back upon with the fondest of memories.”