FAYETTEVILLE — South Plantation (Fla.) High running back Alex Collins was introduced as the 23rd member of Arkansas’ 2013 signing class on Thursday.
It doesn’t mean the bizarre saga involving his mother, who has a different idea about where the 18-year-old should attend college, is completely over.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Collins got his birth father, Johnny Collins, to sign his national letter of intent after his mother refused a day earlier and announced in a press release she had hired an attorney Thursday. Arkansas received the letter-of-intent shortly after it was signed and the five-star prospect was described as a “great addition” to the Arkansas class by coach Bret Bielema in a press release.
“He is an upstanding young man who has impressed us throughout our time getting to know him, and he focused on making a decision that was the best for him athletically, academically and socially,” Bielema said. “He has high character and is a student-athlete we are thrilled to bring into our family. He made it clear to us that he truly wanted to be a Razorback, which is what we want from everyone we sign.”
It was an announcement Arkansas hoped to make during its signing day press conference Wednesday. Collins — who had been committed to Miami before re-opening up his recruitment last fall — announced he would attend Arkansas during a television show Monday night. He planned to sign with the Razorbacks during a ceremony at his school early Wednesday afternoon.
But Collins did not attend the ceremony because his mother, Andrea McDonald, wouldn’t sign the papers. Collins said she wanted him to stay close to home and attend Miami. The NCAA requires letters of intent to be signed by a parent or legal guardian if a prospect is under the age of 21.
Collins explained how it happened during an interview with the media in South Florida. His mother pulled him into a room before the ceremony and expressed her uneasiness, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Collins said he didn’t get a chance to explain how he really felt before school officials interrupted because the ceremony was being delayed for two other recruits signing at the school.
“That’s why my mom pulled back and said, ‘OK, we’re going to wait,’” Collins said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “She felt uncomfortable that they were trying to force her to sign, and she wasn’t ready to do it.”
Collins finally got his moment Thursday, though, after contacting his father, Johnny, and asking for help. Johnny Collins said he was happy to do it and sat by his son during a ceremony held at a restaurant in Plantation. Collins wore a camouflage suit, pulled a red Arkansas hat out of his jacket and proclaimed he was a Razorback.
Collins — who is rated as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the country by 247Sports — later said he was happy the ordeal was over. But he stressed his intentions to sign with Arkansas never wavered the past 24 hours. Collins also insisted his mother supported him and was simply looking out for his best interests.
“The last conversation I had with her was basically about why I chose Arkansas and why I felt the love at Arkansas,” Collins told media members in South Florida.
“She understood and she supports me. She’s always supported me. It’s just the fact that from her standpoint she wants to make sure this is the right decision for me and that I’m not just picking a school and I don’t understand what I’m getting myself into. I’m leaving the state. I’m going to be a four-to-five hour plane ride away, and she just wants to make sure this is really what I want to do.”
Andrea McDonald did not attend the ceremony. Collins said she had to work.
But she wasn’t completely absent from the festivities Thursday.
The Cochran Firm, founded by the late attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr., issued a press release to the media about an hour before the ceremony stating McDonald had hired attorney Jack Paris to “represent the family’s interests.”
Collins told the media in South Florida he was not aware his mother had hired an attorney. Another statement was released a few hours after the ceremony.
“Ms. McDonald understands that Alex has received consent from his father who has signed the letter-of-intent for him to play football for the University of Arkansas,” the statement said. “However, our client’s initial intentions remain unchanged. She is a loving and caring mother who only wants her son to choose a university without any outside and inappropriate influences. Ms. McDonald hopes all NCAA rules and regulations were followed during today’s signing. She is not seeking any personal financial gain because her only concern is for Alex’s happiness and well being.
“The Cochran Firm is standing by Ms. McDonald in this difficult time and has made all of the firm’s resources available to her as she explores her options.”
Bielema and the Razorbacks didn’t sound concerned after signing Collins.
The staff attended a signing day celebration in North Little Rock on Thursday night and Bielema spoke about Collins, who is the key piece in a class ranked as high as No. 22 by 247Sports despite the staff’s late start this winter.
Bielema wanted to “let the story develop from Alex’s mouth,” but said he sat down with McDonald two weeks ago and “it was all hugs and great things on the way out the door. But obviously things changed.” He added said it’s not the first time a parent “didn’t think the decision their son had made was in their best interest.”
Bielema said Arkansas did nothing inappropriate in recruiting and signing Collins.
“A quote I’ve tried to carry my whole life is if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said,” he said. “I think that’s how you handle recruiting and how you handle your daily life. If you always know what you’re in control of and always know what you did, you don’t really have anything to worry about.
“I’m confident myself, my coaches and the university, we dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts. We worked with Jon Fagg in our compliance office (Wednesday) to get all the information we needed to get and get that letter signed.”