Everything's bigger in Texas. And that includes coincidences.
Rookie safety Landon Collins is set to make his NFL debut next Sunday night in the New York Giants' season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. He will do so at AT&T Stadium, where three years and 12 days earlier, the second-round draft pick began his All-American career at Alabama. The Crimson Tide opened up the 2012 season with a 41-14 victory over Michigan at the neutral site, which was then known as Cowboys Stadium.
From Tuscaloosa to East Rutherford, apparently all good things must first go through Arlington for Collins.
"I'm confident, happy, glad it is here," Collins said on a conference call the day after the preseason finale. "And [I'm] very healthy, so I will be able to play out the whole game and have no worries. [I am] just ready to dominate and get the W with the team and go on to the next game."
Playing primarily on special teams as a true freshman, Collins helped Alabama to its second of back-to-back national titles in 2012. But now, as a pro, Collins won't be in a reserve role.
Penciled in with the first team since his first day with the Giants, Collins finished the preseason with two strong outings after missing a week with a knee injury that he suffered in the opener. Last night against the Patriots, he had four tackles and showed his range in breaking up a deep pass intended for veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
Five standout performers in the Giants fourth preseason game vs. Patriots
"I felt great," Collins said of his performance. "I just felt confident with the game plan and practicing and then being comfortable behind the defense and behind the vets and making calls and running to the ball.
"Once you get confidence inside the system and [are] able to run around and fly around and be worry-free, that is the best feeling when playing for this defense."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, left tackle Ereck Flowers, who was drafted 24 spots before Collins in the first round, will also make his first start next week in a prominent role
For advice, the Miami product can turn to left guard Justin Pugh, a fellow first-round pick who started Week 1 as a rookie in 2013. And he did so by opening up in primetime on a Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.
"You know, I started my first game ever [against the] Cowboys, Sunday Night Football, so I told him it's going to be an electric atmosphere," Pugh said. "It's definitely going to be something that he'll never forget. But just to go out there and calm his nerves down and go out there on that first play and just hit somebody, kind of shake off all those jitters, and just settle in and get ready to play one hell of a game.
"He's probably not going to have experienced a place as loud and as electric as Dallas Cowboys' Stadium. I mean, I didn't play in the SEC, so I didn't get to experience anything like that, but you know, that stadium was insane. That first 100,000 people with the roof closed— definitely a loud atmosphere. So that's going to be a lot right in the beginning because Dallas, they put on a show that first game, so they try to put like fireworks and cheerleaders running around— you have to make sure you lock it in, so that's something I'm going to let him know because I went through the exact same thing."
But based on Flowers' demeanor outside of the first and last whistles, the distractions won't be a problem.
"He definitely is a very focused guy," Pugh added. "I can already tell he's getting ready to go. He's sitting in the cold tub right now."
Gameday Photo Timeline from Giants vs. Patriots Week 4 Preseason matchup