TCU

Inside TCU’s L.J. Collier’s NFL Draft party as he became the Seahawks first round pick

L.J. Collier couldn’t help but smile.

He didn’t remember who exactly from the Seattle Seahawks broke the news to him, whether it was general manager John Schneider or coach Pete Carroll.

“It was pretty loud in here,” Collier said.

Yes, the room erupted when the phone call came just after 10:35 p.m. Collier, along with his family and close friends, had gathered for an NFL Draft watch party at 6 p.m. at the Omni Frisco Hotel, and had been waiting patiently.

Collier’s agent, Scott Casterline, told the group before the draft started that the expectation had been for Collier to go in the second round, but there were four or five teams that could make him a first-round pick.

Well, that proved to be the Seahawks, a team that has an immediate need at pass rusher on the heels of trading Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs days before the draft.

“I had my mind set for the second round. I wasn’t planning for the first,” Collier said. “But I was ready to hear my name called. It was an unreal feeling. Coming from where I come from in Munday, graduating with 25 kids in my high school class, this doesn’t happen a lot.

“I’m on cloud nine. I’m excited and I’m happy. I still can’t believe it.”

Collier is an ideal fit for the Seattle defense.

The Seahawks will utilize him across the D-line, inside and outside, much like they did with Michael Bennett. Bennett, the former Texas A&M product, went to three Pro Bowls with the Seahawks from 2015-17.

Collier will bring a blue-collar mindset much like he did at TCU. This is a guy who grew up in a town of less than 2,000, had only one offer coming out of high school and developed into a first-round NFL talent.

Collier is not going to forget his roots.

“Nothing’s changed tonight,” Collier said. “I’m going to keep the same mentality. I’m trying to play for 10-plus years. I’m trying to get it all. I’m trying to win the Super Bowl. I’m trying to help them win as many games as I can.

“I want them to know I’m all-in and I care. I’m ready to go ball.”

As far as replacing Clark, Collier said: “It feels good, man. He’s a great guy, a great pass rusher. He was good for them and I’m happy to fill those shoes. I’m going to work hard and be humble and learn from the guys in the room.

“I’m going to show them they didn’t make a mistake picking me.”

Collier started just one season at TCU, but made the most of it. He earned All-Big 12 honors after a season in which he put up a career-high 6.0 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.

Collier then went on to have impressive showings at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, boosting his draft stock throughout the pre-draft process.

Casterline, his agent at Team Sports Agency, feels Collier is a “generational talent,” comparing his playing style and mentality to that of former Dallas Cowboys great and Hall of Famer Randy White.

“I’m super excited for L.J. Seattle will be a great fit for him,” Casterline said. “It’s unusual to see a one-year starter go in the first round, but he’s got such great talent. We knew early on that he was seen like that by NFL teams back in December. He’s got generational talent. I haven’t seen one like him in 20 years.

“Randy White was here tonight and he’s got a lot of the same traits Randy had -- intensity, will to win, the focus. He reminds me of Randy and that’s a big statement. I think his ceiling is unlimited.”

Collier is TCU’s fourth first-round pick in the last decade, and became the 46th player taken in the draft during the Gary Patterson era. He’ll become teammates again with former TCU offensive lineman Joey Hunt, a sixth-round pick by Seattle in 2016.

In the end, Collier couldn’t have been more thrilled to hear his name called, especially by an organization such as the Seahawks.

“Man, it’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Collier said. “Just Seattle’s history of playing defense and what they do there, it’s a blue-collar mentality. They hold themselves to a high standard. I’m ready to be a part of that. I’m so excited to be coached by Pete Carroll. He’s a GOAT in my book.

“I’m excited and ready to go to work.”

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