Arizona Cardinal first round selection and former Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins got his first chance to speak with media after the Bird Gang added him with the No. 16 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft,
Here are a few takeaways – straight out of his mouth – on the newest Cardinal:
He knows the role he wants to fill (all of them)
The former high school valedvictorian wants to be a part of a thinking person’s game, and he feels like he can use his versatility – much like last year’s No. 1 pick Isaiah Simmons – to help in many ways.
I envision myself as a chess piece that everyone can use in many ways. I think that I can do that for Arizona. They have Simmons. They have so many so many intangibles coming off every edge that I think that I’ll be a chess piece for them that they’ll be able to move around for a second or third down, and it’d be great for them.
He knows ALL about the Cardinals
Whether it’s fellow Oklahoma school alum Kyler Murray or veterans on the defense, Collins is well aware of the type of talent he’ll be surrounded with. And he’s ready to learn.
Let’s talk about the the best player to be a dual threat Kyler Murray, goes from (Texas A&M) goes to (Oklahoma), and is No. 1 out the gate. He’s the best. He’s the best. Arizona’s the best. And he can do everything. So as a defensive player, you want to go against that….I look really forward to be able to compete against him. And then you know, on defense learn from JJ Watt, learn from Simmons or from all the other vets the cornerbacks and safeties…it’s unreal.
He is ready for the big moment
Despite playing at a smaller school in Tulsa, Collins says he’s been training his entire life to get to this level. He wants to hit the ground running and for his teammates to hold him to a high standard.
I love pressure. I felt pressure since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I love it. I love pressure. I love pressure in college. I love pressuring in the NFL. I love it. That’s the thing that I strive for. I want to feel that going into the league. I want guys like JJ Watt, Simmons…Kyler Murray, all those guys to count on me to do a certain role.
He took in Draft night to the fullest extent
Collins took in draft night at Tulsa surrounded by friends and family. When his name got called, the moment got to him.
The moment Zaven’s life changed forever! pic.twitter.com/6dLyQPqcqG
— Tulsa Football (@TulsaFootball) April 30, 2021
That’s something that I I rarely do. But since this was something I’ve strived for since I’ve been very young, for my family, for my team for the town of harmony, for Tulsa, for all my coaches. It was something that was so emotional to me that I couldn’t help it. You know, I apologize to everyone for I was acting like a big baby up there. But man, I couldn’t help it.
He took his own path to the NFL
Growing up in Hominy, Oklahoma (population: 3,431), Collins did not get many college looks. In fact, his only Division I offer came from Tulsa. He heard “no” all the time in the recruiting process, but was able to find his opportunities on his way to a NFL career.
Whenever I came out of high school, all these coaches told me I’d never be a big enough player. I’d never have enough competition. I’d never been great and good enough, great enough, whatever you want to say to play at the next level, the Division I level. And honestly, that’s, I tell everyone, as I said, you know, piss on them. Excuse my French, but piss on them. I want to be great. I want to go go prove myself to the world prove myself to the National Football League that I can do this that I can.
His mom did what it took to get him here today
During the recruiting process, his mom did everything she could to get Zaven in front of college coaches.
She was taking money out of her 401k to send me all around the US to go to all these different camps, whether coaches wanted me on offense, defense, special teams, I didn’t care we were going out there and performing for these coaches. And that’s what we wanted to do, to be able to get a scholarship or even a chance.
From small town to the NFL, the newest Cardinal is ready to get to know his new teammates, and Bird Gang fans.