A Road Less Traveled into the National Football League

I just finished watching the Dallas Cowboys and former LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins’ introductory press conference. As Jerry Jones, owner and general manger noted, press conferences for undrafted free agents in the NFL simply aren’t done.

But, as Jones also noted, this isn’t your ordinary undrafted free agent. Collins was rated as a first round draft pick before the events of April 24, 2015. Collins, in fact, left the NFL draft to return to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to meet with police and answer questions concerning the double murder of Brittney Mills and her then unborn baby. A paternity test demonstrated Collins was not the father and police communicated he was not a suspect.

Despite Collins’ considerable football talent, all 32 teams passed on selecting him due to the uncertainty and questions surrounding him and the investigation.

Full disclosure – I’m a lifelong Cowboys fan. I, too, let my imagination take over and consider how the addition of La’el to an already prolific offensive line might become historically special. But, I also kept coming back to the 29 year old woman who lost her life and the baby she was carrying at the time of her death.

Not once during a 37:41 press conference, did La’el, his mother, Jerry Jones or Head Coach Jason Garrett mention her name or offer condolences to her family.

I understand if La’el is unable to comment on specifics as the murder investigation of Brittney Mills is ongoing. But, I was struck by how neither he nor his mother offered their condolences for her untimely death and the death of her baby.

Regardless of his relationship with Ms. Mills or if he was even still in contact with her, they knew each other. Understandably, he would be questioned given that the police suspect her assailant was likely someone she knew.

I also understand and respect that this was his time. His press conference. An event he likely felt he was cheated from having had he been drafted.

I would invite him to consider that as he is realizing his dream, a young woman who undoubtedly had many of her own will go unrealized. Dreams which included raising her 10 year old daughter and the baby she was carrying when she died.

At a time when the national conversation considers that all lives matter, let’s not forget this young woman and her baby – neither who survived this senseless act of violence. I wish La’el Collins well. Selfishly, as a Cowboys fan who has endured a Super Bowl drought of 18 years. But more importantly because, by all accounts, he’s earned this shot in the NFL and he will put in the work, on and off the field, to be the best player and man he can be.

Posted on May 19, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Written by

Marie Rudolph

A lifelong sports enthusiast, Rudolph created her opportunity to work in an industry she’s passionate about when she co-founded the EagleBank Bowl. In securing the inaugural 2008 license, Rudolph was involved in negotiating contracts with ESPN, the United States Naval Academy, United States Military Academy and the Atlantic Coast Conference, as well as securing a $2 million letter of credit for the property. In 2010, the Bowl was renamed the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. She continues to serve on the Board of Directors. In 2011, Rudolph was presented with the Outstanding Service to Amateur Football award by the National Capital Region Chapter of the National Football Foundation. In 2012, she was appointed to the Advisory Board on Interscholastic Athletics for the District of Columbia. Currently working as a consultant, Rudolph continues to explore new entrepreneurial opportunities. She hails from Colorado and moved to Washington, D.C. following college. She holds a B.A. from Regis University and an M.A. from The George Washington University.
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