September 10, 2010
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun
Used with permission
E.J. Collins, at the age of 12 or 13, watched the Washington Redskins play a home game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. He returned to FedEx for the first time since then on Sept. 6, this time as a member of the nationally-ranked Virginia Tech football team.
Collins, a defensive end, was a redshirt for the Hokies during the 2009 season. But now he is on the roster of the Hokies, who were ranked No. 10 in the country before the game against Boise State, which was ranked No. 3.
“I am looking forward to being part of football again,” redshirt freshman Collins, a graduate of Brooke Point High School, said before the game. “I am trying to work hard and take advantage of the opportunity. I have not thought too much about this season.”
Collins said it was hard to sit out last season but he knows it was for the best. “I was just taking care of what I need to take care of. I took care of working hard and taking care of grades,” he said. Collins was a redshirt in 2009 but turned in a bench press of 365 pounds when he reported for practice that August.
Boise State took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, in part to a blocked put, and 20-14 at halftime before a packed house of mostly Virginia Tech fans. But Collins came up with a fumble recovery early in the third quarter that gave Virginia Tech the ball in Boise State territory.
Seven plays later the Hokies took the lead for the first time as Ryan Williams scored on a touchdown and the PAT gave Virginia Tech a 21-20 lead with 6:34 left in the third quarter. But D.J. Harper of Boise State broke off a long TD to give his team a 26-21 lead with 5:38 left in the quarter.
The Hokies led, 30-26, in the fourth quarter Boise came back and won, 34-30, before a sellout crowd of 86,587 fans. "We just made too many mistakes," Virginia Tech head Frank Beamer said after the game. "We made too many critical mistakes to beat a top-five football team. Look at the effort we made to come back and get out of a hole. I'm proud of what we are all about, I'm just not proud of how we play consistently, right now. I give Boise State credit. They did a nice job of coming back."
The Hokies roster also includes redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Isaiah Hamlette (Brooke Point) and freshman split end E.L. Smiling (Brooke Point).
Hamlette, who played well in spring practice, played in three plays last year against Marshall and in three defensive plays and three special team plays against Boston College. He played for Jeff Berry at Brooke Point and had eight sacks as his team won a district title. “He is doing way better this year,” Collins said of Hamlette.
Smiling played for Berry at Brooke Point and he caught 52 passes for 783 yards and 11 touchdowns a senior. He also had six interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. His sister, Sheena Tosta, earned the silver medal in the women’s 400 hurdles at the 2008 Olympics in China.
Smiling was not slated to make the trip to Landover and there is a chance he could redshirt this season, Collins said. “He will come out better than me if he does that,” said Collins, who spent most of the summer in Blacksburg taking classes and working out.
In the days leading up to the game in Landover, Collins said he talked to a good friend about playing in Landover. “We were big Redskins fans. What if I meet Chris Cooley” of the Redskins, Collins said to his friend.