Nico Collins waited a long time for this moment: his first official NFL touchdown catch.
The Texans’ imposing rookie wide receiver had been met with frustratingly close encounters with the end zone previously, including an offensive pass interference infraction earlier this season and being ruled out of bounds against the Tennessee Titans.
This time, the touchdown counted in the record books.
A third-round draft pick from Michigan, Collins scored in traffic on a 13-yard run-pass option play Sunday during a 41-29 upset victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter. The timing between Collins and rookie quarterback Davis Mills on a quick slant was on full display along with Collins’ sound hands and size advantage over defensive backs at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds.
“It was a great feeling,” Collins said. “I’ve been waiting all year for it. It happened at the right time. It came down to the week of preparation. It just came down to the perfect timing. Mills found me on a slant, great matchup. He trusted me, coaches trusted me and I went out and made a play for the team.
“It’s more just like a coverage thing. They pretty much load the box, and it’s a matchup outside if the QB likes it, he can take it. It’s an option. Davis, he trusted the process in seeing what the defense gave him and he went out there and made a play. That’s all that went into it, nothing crazy at all.”
Collins has caught 28 passes for 344 yards and one touchdown on 48 targets in a dozen games and seven starts.
Against the Chargers, Collins caught three passes for 33 yards on four targets.
With 4.45 speed in the 40-yard dash, Collins is one of the biggest wide receivers in the NFL and he plays the game with a physical nature. The Texans are excited about his potential as a rookie starter they’ve developed after acquiring him by trading back into the third round. Collins led the Big Ten Conference with a 19.7 average per catch in 2019, finishing with 37 receptions for 729 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Again, I’ll go back to having those veteran players about with dealing with things,” Texans coach David Culley said. “Brandin Cooks, Chris Moore, those guys that have been around, he’s watched those guys and he’s developing into a very, very good football player, the kind of football player we thought he was going to be.
“He has not had any regression at all in what we’ve been asking him to do. He’s getting better and better. He’s a willing learner. He’s a hard worker and all he wants to do is get better and I am starting to see that with him. He’s starting to feel more confident about it and obviously Davis is starting to feel more comfortable with him too.”
Tutored by veteran receivers coach Rober Prince and older players like Cooks, Chris Conley, Danny Amendola and Moore, Collins has proven to be a quick study and an advanced rookie.
”Just coming in from college to the NFL, it’s a whole different league,” Collins said. “Everybody’s good, so I’m glad I got R.P. He’s my coach, and I’m glad I got the vets in our room. I appreciate them for getting me ready for this opportunity. We came up and my time came and they trusted me because they’ve always been there for me. Whatever questions I have, they’re always there to help me out. I appreciate them a lot, being there in my corner.”
With his first touchdown under his belt, Collins, a Birmingham, Ala., native is eager to repeat the feeling.
“I’m real hungry for it,” Collins said. “It’s a great feeling, I want to continue feeling that feeling. But again, I’m still improving and getting better, still growing, still working on my game and still trying to find ways to help out our team.”
“I’ve seen the video. It’s a great feeling, first NFL touchdown. That’s everybody’s dream. It came at the right time, perfect opportunity. It was a great, great team victory. In the end zone celebrating with your teammates, there’s no better feeling.”