Running back DeShawn Collins hopes he has found a football home.
Twice a 2,000-yard rusher at Grant High in Sacramento, Collins landed at Berkeley this winter after a journey that featured a brief stay in Rhode Island and two years at City College of San Francisco.
He worked nights as a guard at San Francisco International Airport to pay the rent and persevered through two injuries, although he informed his City College coaches about just one of them.
“I pride myself on being a beast,” Collins said Saturday after practice when asked about the toughness it took to play most of last fall with a broken collarbone he told no one about until November.
Collins acknowledged his collarbone injury was painful. “Just put a pad on me and tape it up for the game,” he explained.
Now healthy and happy to be here, Collins is competing with sophomore Christopher Brown and redshirt junior Marcel Dancy in a backfield that will be looking to replace the versatile and productive Patrick Laird.
Collins rushed for 923 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 434 yards and four more TDs last fall at CCSF, where the the Rams’ quarterback was Cal walk-on Jack Newman.
On his goals for 2019, Collins said, “Whatever the team needs to win. … I’m trying to win a championship. That’s it.”
Listed at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Collins is a nice package of power and speed.
Asked to describe his north-south running style, he said, “Just be efficient and run through somebody’s face.”
Despite rushing for more than 4,600 yards and 55 touchdowns his final two seasons at Grant, Collins had a scholarship offer from just one FBS team — Army.
UC Davis, Sacramento State and Weber State also wanted him, but Collins accepted an offer from FCS-level Rhode Island, nearly 3,000 miles from Sacramento.
Collins didn’t last his first summer on campus. “It wasn’t for me,” he said with typical brevity. “Just wasn't the place. So I went to JC. Sat out. Played. Now I’m here.”
Collins wanted the chance to play on a bigger collegiate stage.
To get there he enrolled at California JC powerhouse CCSF, but he sat out the 2017 season after suffering a bone bruise in his right ankle in the opener. After a successful 2018 season, UNLV, Hawaii and BYU were at his doorstep before Collins chose Cal.
Coach Justin Wilcox has been pleased with Collins through the first week of spring practice.
“He’s fast,” Wilcox said. “We were able to see him in person and on tape and he’s done a nice job. I’m anxious to watch him continue, to see if he can keep this up.”