Maliek Collins, a Kansas City native who graduated from Center High School, was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the NFL draft Friday. He was the No. 67 overall pick.
Collins, 6 feet 2 and 311 pounds, is coming off a junior season at Nebraska in which he recorded 29 tackles, seven for loss, 2 1/2 sacks and six quarterback hurries. He was projected to go in the second round, prompting his decision to declare early.
“I just felt like it was the best decision for me and my family,” said Collins, who made the announcement at a news conference after Nebraska’s win over UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl in late December. “I weighed my options, talked to my family. Prayed about it.”
Collins turned 21 earlier this month and has a 2-year-old son, Maliek Jr. He was among the youngest players at his position in the draft.
He started two seasons for the Huskers and was their co-defensive MVP in 2014, when he recorded 45 tackles, 14 for loss, 4 1/2 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries.
Collins credited his high school coach, Bryan DeLong, for helping keep his football career on track, recalling one time he tried skipping a summer football workout as a sophomore before DeLong arrived and convinced him to go.
“I would have played football,” Collins said, “but I wouldn’t have been where I am now (without DeLong).”