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Collins arrives at NDSU for spring semester

FARGO — Sitting in the Memorial Union on the North Dakota State campus, in his yellow “Bison Nation” T-shirt and faded jeans, Marcus Collins looked like any other college student. He’s not, however, like any other Bison football player.

Collins graduated early from LaFollette High School in Madison, Wis., and enrolled for the spring semester at NDSU. It’s called a “mid-year” in the football vernacular, a practice that is more common in the FBS circles than FCS.

He is believed to be the first Bison football recruit to enroll in school before signing his letter of intent in at least two or three decades. Maybe ever.

“I was ready to go, ready to start being productive again,” Collins said. “Once football season ended, there really wasn’t much left for me in high school, so once I got the credits all out of the way, I was ready to start reaching for the next goal.”

The next goal starts Thursday when he begins winter workouts with all of the returning Bison players. He’ll be able to participate in spring football.

It was a plan he first thought about his freshman year in high school when he saw a LaFollette girls volleyball player leave early for the University of Wisconsin. He made sure to structure his academic progress accordingly, taking math and science classes earlier than his fellow 2014 graduates.

LaFollette football coach Mike Harris said he first had discussions with Collins and his father two years ago about the plan.

“He had this vision,” Harris said. “It was a sign of his great level of maturity. We warned and cautioned him these are great big steps to go from high school to the rigors of college and spring football. He was more than willing to accept that challenge.”

His first class was Tuesday night, an almost three-hour lecture class. His first football class will be in March when spring ball starts.

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he’s projected as a pass-catching tight end. He was a wide receiver and safety in high school, but Harris sees a kid who “will grow into his body.”

He’s getting the ultimate head start being part of strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer’s winter program.

“I get to get in and work with all the guys,” Collins said. “I never played tight end before, so this whole spring will give me an advantage as far as learning my position and being able to learn the offense.”

Collins was a highly recruited player who originally verbally committed to FBS Pittsburgh. The Panthers’ scholarship offer, however, didn’t hold up. He also had FBS offers from Western Michigan and Toledo of the Mid-American Conference.

He said Indiana was in the process of evaluating him as a safety. He said Wisconsin, where his father played, “was in the conversation.”

“But I wanted to find the best place for me,” Collins said. “Everybody from my area goes to Madison, and I just wanted to get out and do my own thing.”

His Twitter account revealed as much when he posted last Saturday morning when he left Madison that he was looking forward to the next chapter in his life. He’s been a rallying point of sorts for the 2014 verbal commitments, encouraging Bison fans to follow them on Twitter.

Asked what the first few days were like in Fargo, he said, “I can’t stop smiling. It’s positive with everything. There’s a whole lot of excitement and there’s some anxiousness toward spring ball.”