Soft-Spoken Defender Chooses Tigers

<b>Tiger Ticket</b>

One of the top athletes in Alabama talks about picking Auburn and gets praise from his head coach.

Opelika, Ala.--When it came down to it, Auburn was just the right place for safety/linebacker Montavian Collier.

A football rookie this season for Coach Spence McCracken and the Bulldogs, the 6-2, 215-pound Collier excelled in his first season of football since the 9th grade. Leading a defense that was a main reason that Opelika won 12 wins in 2002, Collier earned the respect of his coach after just one season of watching him play.

"He only played football for us last year and we got him off the basketball court," McCracken said of Collier. "He has really come on and I'm going to tell you something--we don't win 12 games without this guy in our lineup. He did an outstanding job for us."

Montavian Collier

A quiet person off the field and in front of the microphone, Collier didn't waste much time making his decision public on Monday afternoon. Walking to the podium, he quickly took off his jacket to show an Auburn jersey underneath. That led to cheers from the audience of around 50 Opelika friends and relatives. Following the announcement Collier talked about his reasons for wanting to be a Tiger.

"I wanted to stay close to my family," Collier said. "Auburn was a good choice for me."

Collier also considered Florida State and was scheduled to visit Georgia last weekend before deciding the trip was just going to be a waste of time. Despite his interest in the Seminoles, he said that he knew for a long time he wanted to play for Auburn.

A player capable of playing a number of positions on the defensive side of the ball, Collier has run better than a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. Despite playing just one season, he established himself as one of the top defenders in Alabama last season. Finishing with 74 tackles, four interceptions (one for a touchdown) and three caused fumbles while playing cornerback and safety for the Bulldogs, Collier is a rare athlete even for a coach as experienced as McCracken.

Collier with current and future teammate Tez Doolittle and Opelika Coach Spence McCracken.

"He did play ball in middle school so he had some experience playing the game and understood the game," McCracken said of Collier. "That helped him out. Montavian just didn't play because Montavian just wasn't ready to play maturity-wise. He promised to us that he would sell out his senior year and he did. I'm glad he did because he helped us win two or three ball games we probably wouldn't have won without him in the secondary."

Not qualified at this time, McCracken said that Collier should get qualified if he just does what he's capable of doing the rest of the school year. "He has to make some good grades this term coming up and hopefully he will. I'll be very disappointed if he doesn't."

Collier is a key component for an Opelika basketball team that is on track to surpass the school record for wins in a season with 26. At 24-4 right now, the Bulldogs have already wrapped up the region title and are preparing for postseason play. Collier, using his 37-inch vertical leap to play power forward, is averaging double figures in points and almost nine rebounds per game.

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