Go to the game with Event USA!
All Packers Games – Home & Away – and WI/LSU at Lambeau!
» Go to the game
By CHRIS HAVEL
Chad Clifton, Nick Collins among classiest, most professional I’ve dealt with through the years
James Campen and Charles Woodson have been bestowed a tremendous honor.
Campen, the Packers’ former center and current offensive line coach, and Woodson, a surefire Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back, have been selected to present Chad Clifton and Nick Collins at the 46th Packer Hall of Fame Induction Banquet.
The late Russ Winnie, the former broadcaster, will be presented by grandson Russ Winnie III on July 23.
Clifton and Collins are especially near and dear to my heart. They would rate high on any list of my “favorite Packers” that I have covered since 1992.
Physically and in several other ways they couldn’t have been more different.
Clifton, who was a massive 6-foot-6, 320 pound left tackle, stood in stark contrast to Collins, a well-muscled 5-foot-11, 200 pound safety.
Clifton spent his career (2000-2011) protecting the quarterback’s blindside. He did his best to keep them healthy and upright so they could look good.
Collins spent his career (2005-2011) trying to make quarterbacks took bad. He did everything in his power to study offenses, read the quarterback and intercept passes at a high rate.
Here’s what they had in common:
Both were among the finest at what they did.
Clifton developed into a Pro Bowl left tackle and was instrumental in fellow Packer Hall of Fame player Brett Favre’s NFL-record consecutive games played streak.
Without “Cliffy” the story of Brett Favre surely would’ve been a bit different in the telling.
He took over at left tackle halfway through his 2000 rookie season and never relinquished the job.
Collins developed into one of the NFL’s top safeties. He punctuated that rightful place in Super Bowl XLV when he intercepted the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and returned it for a 37-yard touchdown. He finished with the interception plus four solo tackles and a pass defended.
Both were quiet, mild-mannered second-round draft picks.
It was fitting both were taken in the second round because although they had first-round talent they wouldn’t have been comfortable with all the fuss.
Clifton, chosen 44th overall, hailed from Tennessee.
He was a big-time player from a big-time program with a small town attitude. The first time I saw him in public after he signed with the Packers, he and his family were dining at an Ashwaubenon all-you-can-eat pizza buffet.
If he was going to fly through his signing bonus it would be one slice at a time.
Collins, chosen 51st overall in 2005, was as quiet as they come.
He and his wife, Andrea, could be seen walking and holding hands after training camp practices his rookie season.
Collins seemed painfully shy, although as his career played out he began to come out of his shell and proved to be a very engaging speaker.
Both Collins and Clifton (Candy) are married to their college sweethearts and are busy raising their families.
Both endured a NFL player’s worst nightmare: A serious injury that occurred in the blink of an eye.
In Clifton’s case, the 2002 cheap shot he received from Tampa Bay’s Warren Sapp nearly ended his career. He suffered multiple injuries including a broken pelvis. Clifton was hospitalized for almost a week and needed crutches to walk for the next five weeks.
That hit led to the NFL Competition Committee’s decision to make those types of blindside hits illegal and calling it “unnecessary roughness.”
Clifton rehabilitated with his close friend and Packers’ right tackle Mark Tauscher, who was recovering from a serious knee injury. Clifton made it all the way back to Pro Bowl form.
Collins wasn’t so lucky. On Sept. 18, 2011, at Carolina, Collins sustained a neck injury when the crown of his helmet collided with Panthers’ running back Jonathan Stewart. Collins was carted off the field in a stretcher and suffered a herniated disk in his neck.
He underwent cervical fusion surgery and never played again. By then, however, Collins’ story had been written.
He and Clifton were Packer Hall of Fame players and this summer, Woodson and Campen will be fortunate enough to share in their induction.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com).
Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.