Start at Allsup’s, the convenience store just off the intersection of Highway 222 and Route 277. Collier gave it a shout-out on draft night, calling it a good place to get a burrito, as if he was giving advice to prospective visitors.
Five blocks to the north is a Dairy Queen, the only eatery you’ll find open on a fall Friday night when almost half of the residents are packed inside the 600-seat Scruggs Field for high school football.
To get there, you’ll drive through the only stoplight, if you could call it one.
“Not even,” Collier said. “It’s just a light that flickers.”
Five blocks west of the DQ is Munday High, where Collier graduated in 2014 among a senior class of 25 students.
Retrace your steps from there and head back south on South Birch Avenue. You’ll see the giant water tower on your left bearing the town’s name on one side and the high school’s nickname, the Moguls, on the other. It might be the tallest structure in sight.
Kitty-corner from Allsup’s is City Hall, where the secretary can give you the exact population of Munday off the top of her head: 1,388.
And now one of Munday’s own is off to the NFL.
“He’s representing his town,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said after selecting Collier, a defensive end, 29th overall. “It’s a big deal to him. He pretty much knows everybody in the town. Friday night lights, think of that, you know? It’s a pretty cool deal.”
Made in Munday
Pull up Munday in Google Maps and you’ll have to zoom way out before a recognizable city — like Abilene or Fort Worth — provides geographical context.
It’s about 190 miles northwest of Dallas and roughly 150 miles in the same direction from Fort Worth, where Collier attended college at TCU. There’s one public golf course that’s located just outside city limits. The nearest movie theaters are more than hour away in either Abilene or Wichita Falls.
“What you do on the weekends is you just drive around in your truck and you drive around on dirt roads and hang out in somebody’s field,” TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who grew up in West Texas and recruited Collier, said in a phone interview with ESPN.com. “That’s pretty much what you do for fun.”
Collier excelled on the field when he got to TCU, finishing with 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks during his senior season. But one major adjustment he had to make once he got to Fort Worth was timing his car trips to avoid traffic, something there isn’t much of in Munday.
“It was a great place to grow up at for a kid, because in the city, you can’t really ride around on your bike a lot or do things like that,” Collier said. “I did a lot of that with my friends growing up. We’d just hunt rabbits and birds — me and my cousin did with my BB gun and stuff like that. I wasn’t really much of a hunter, but as a kid we usually shot stuff around the house and things like that. We’d jump on the trampoline a lot. We played a lot of football.
“Couldn’t really get into much, but it was a lot of fun. … I didn’t really know anything else.”
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In Munday, pretty much everyone knows each other — or at least knows of each other. There are few strangers, if any. Cumbie believes that helped shape Collier’s outgoing nature.
“It’s just because he doesn’t know any different,” Cumbie said. “Everywhere he’s ever been, he’s had a big personality. I think he doesn’t have as many inhibitions probably as some kids who come from bigger towns where maybe some of that was suppressed at a certain age.”
Collier’s dad, Lawrence Sr., was born and raised in Munday. He still works in the oil fields and lives in nearby Stamford. L.J.’s late mother, Ruby, was from 6 miles away in Goree. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when L.J. was a senior in high school and died during her son’s second year at TCU.
“That’s where a small town like that … people can take a vested interest in you and they pick you up and take you to school and they’re just around you all the time,” Cumbie said.
For Collier, that person was Christel Shahan. She taught him math and science at Munday High and eventually became a part of his family.
“Basically, I told her L.J. needed to get his test scores up to be able to qualify, and so she took it upon herself to tutor him and meet with him every day extra from an academic standpoint,” Cumbie said.
Shahan would keep in contact with Collier once he left for Fort Worth, regularly talking on the phone or texting.
“I knew what the college part of it was going to be like because I had been to college, but his family, he was the first one to ever go to college,” Shahan told ESPN.com. “So I just kept in touch with him on, ‘How’s it going? Are you going to class? How’s your classes going? How’s football?’ That kind of stuff.
“When his mom got sick, I just kinda started checking in on him a little more and I got to checking in on his mom and dad and just kinda helping out, cooking supper or visiting, or going over and checking on her, just to be someone that kinda could keep L.J. in the loop because he was concerned, obviously, about his mom. We got closer at the end. And then, obviously, after she passed away, then there was kind of a void there. He just needed someone. His dad was going through the loss of his wife, his sisters were going through the loss of their mother. He didn’t want to burden them, so I was just there for him.”
Collier visited Shahan at the high school whenever he came back to Munday. She regularly made the three-hour drive to Fort Worth to watch Collier play and laughs while recalling how their party would usually be the last to leave TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium because he had so many people to talk to.
“He knows everyone,” she said.
Shahan was with Collier and his family in Frisco, Texas, when he got the call from the Seahawks on draft night. After all, she was instrumental in that accomplishment as well as another: Collier graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
“I think that a lot of his motivation and his drive and some of the passion that he plays with out on the field comes from the motivation of wanting to please [his mom],” Cumbie said. “I think one of the last things that she told him was he needed to get his degree and make sure that he graduated, and he did that.”
‘They were ecstatic’
Colton Summers, an attendant at Allsup’s, can confirm that the deep-fried burritos Collier spoke of during his introduction are the real deal. They go for $1.99 before tax or two for $3 with the current special, he said after excusing himself to assist a customer.
“I love them, actually,” Collier said. “They’re really good. I took one of my friends from college home one time and he ate like nine of the things.”
Across the street at City Hall, Munday secretary Bianca Harrimon can’t recall a single famous person that the town has produced.
“I don’t really think we have anyone, honestly,” she said with a laugh.
But now they have Collier.
“When he got drafted, everybody was coming into the store talking about him,” Summers said. “… They were more than proud; they were ecstatic. … I think it was the day of. As soon as everybody found out, they were going crazy.”
Said Collier: “It’s a great feeling, man. It’s good to have the support of my hometown and things like that. I’m very proud they’re supporting me and I’m just going to try my hardest to keep continuing to make them proud.”
Sources — Redskins TE Reed’s career in jeopardy
Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed, who has suffered multiple concussions during his career and already has been ruled out of Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears because of his latest one, might not be able to return at all, league sources told ESPN.
There are those within the Redskins organization and around the league who are concerned Reed will not be able to play again, according to sources. Reed will continue to undergo testing, but the player, the team and doctors know what he is up against.
Any player who has suffered the number of concussions that Reed has — it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number — puts himself at grave risk by playing again.
The Redskins had been counting on having Reed, a former Pro Bowler and one of their best players, this season. But in Washington’s third preseason game last month against the Falcons, Reed suffered his latest concussion, which already has knocked him out of the first three games of the season.
Reed, 29, still would like to resume playing, but it is hardly automatic that he will. The more time that goes on without him coming back, the less likely it is that he will return to a sport in which he has excelled.
Source — AB texts ‘crossed the line’ for Patriots
Had Antonio Brown not sent intimidating group text messages to a female artist who accused him of unwanted sexual advances last week, the star wide receiver would be playing in the New England Patriots‘ game Sunday against the New York Jets, league sources told ESPN.
But when Brown sent those text messages as a member of the Patriots — he was not with New England during the time period when he allegedly sexually assaulted another woman — the organization felt that it had to move on from him.
“That crossed the line,” one source familiar with the organization’s thinking told ESPN. “This was real evidence.”
Now the question becomes how New England handles Brown’s departure. The Patriots are expected to withhold the $9 million signing bonus they agreed to pay Brown when he signed; $5 million is due Monday and the other $4 million is due Jan. 15, 2020.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Brown will file a grievance Monday to try to recoup that money, setting up a legal battle between the player and the team.
Among other factors, New England will lean on the “representation and warranty” clause in Brown’s contract that specifically states: “Player represent warrants and covenance to the club that he will 1) execute in good faith and to the best of his ability all of his obligations to and for the club; 2) he does not and will not participate and is not engaged or will not engage in any conduct or activity that is illegal, unlawful or immoral. And 3) No circumstances exist that would prevent player’s continuing availability to the club for the duration of the contract.”
However, other NFL sources strongly believe that the Patriots eventually will owe Brown the $9 million. Those sources insist that once a signing bonus is earned, it’s earned, and there’s no turning back.
“They are going to lose,” one NFL executive predicted about the Patriots’ plight, referring to the looming financial battle between Brown and New England.
Brown called out Patriots owner Robert Kraft as part of his Sunday morning Twitter tirade, referring to Kraft’s ongoing case in Florida in which he was charged with solicitation for allegedly receiving a sex act at a massage parlor. After the tweets, a source told ESPN that “Kraft [is] never writing that check, no matter what the ruling is now.”
Brown was officially released by the Patriots on Friday, one day after the lawyer for the female artist reached out to the NFL because Brown apparently sent what were described as threatening text messages to her client.
The sides spoke Friday morning, with the woman’s attorneys saying in a statement that the league “pledged to conduct a thorough investigation under its Personal Conduct Policy.” According to that statement, the league also contacted the Patriots, who then directed Brown to have no further contact with the woman.
As part of a Sports Illustrated report published this past Monday, the woman accused Brown of sexual misconduct when she was working at his Pennsylvania home in 2017.
Brown also has been accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer, Britney Taylor, according to a lawsuit she filed Sept. 10. Taylor met with the NFL this past Monday. A source had told ESPN that there are “more interviews and information-gathering being conducted now beyond Taylor.”
It remains unclear when or if Brown will interview with the league. He is an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any team, and the NFL said Friday that Brown would not be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list while he is a free agent.
But the league also warned, “If he is signed by a club, such placement may become appropriate at any time depending on the status of the investigation.”
Sources — Brees consulted Trout before surgery
Brees had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. The operation was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Steven Shin, the doctor who also operated on Trout’s thumb in 2017.
Trout, a two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star for the Los Angeles Angels, missed just over six weeks during the 2017 season after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.
Trout told Brees, however, that he could have returned from the surgery in five weeks, and once he did, he was pain-free and had full range of motion, sources told ESPN.
Brees, 40, who is expected to miss six weeks but has not been placed on injured reserve, wanted to know about the rehab process, and Trout spelled it out for him. So even before he began his rehab, Brees already was eyeing the quickest possible return.
Brees visited with Shin after suffering the injury in last Sunday’s loss in Los Angeles to the Rams. He traveled to Houston for a consultation with Dr. Tom Hunt, another hand specialist, before returning to Los Angeles to have Shin perform an InternalBrace ligament-augmentation operation, virtually the identical surgery Shin performed on Trout.
“After speaking with both doctors and other professional athletes, there have been no other NFL quarterbacks to have this surgery with the internal bracing on their throwing hand — I take that as a challenge!” Brees wrote in a text message to ESPN.
The Saints also haven’t given up hope that Brees could return sooner than the expected six-week timeline, according to sources. The Saints’ schedule sets up for Brees to be back Nov. 10 against Atlanta, after the bye week, which means he would miss six games.
Returning after the bye would give Brees seven weeks to recover — with six games missed — but Brees “wants to play and knows the window [in New Orleans] is short,” one source said.
Brees wanted to join the Saints in Seattle for their game Sunday against the Seahawks but was warned by Shin not to fly to Seattle because of the risk of a setback due to possible “swelling and inflammation.”
“The first 7-to-10 days of post-surgery are really important,” Brees said in a text message. “It crushes me not to be there with them, but I have to do everything I can to get back as fast and strong as possible.”
Brees is aware he has an opportunity to be an injury pioneer for the second time in his NFL career, having made an unlikely comeback from major reconstructive shoulder surgery in 2007 when Dr. James Andrews repaired a radically torn labrum and rotator cuff with 13 anchors. Andrews did the repair without having to open Brees’ shoulder with a scalpel.
Brees was under center nine months later for the Saints, who took a risk by signing him to a free-agent contract. The rest literally has been history, as Brees broke Peyton Manning’s NFL record for career passing yards last season.
“Drew was a one-in-a-million comeback,” Andrews said. “The surgery was one thing, but the rehab Drew did with [therapist] Kevin Wilk was everything. Drew had an insatiable appetite for every detail of surgery and rehab. He was relentless.”
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