Aviante Collins knew adding weight was the biggest challenge when he entered the NFL. Find out why living within a family of track fanatics made the process even more difficult.
Updated: August 8, 2018, 6:30 p.m.
By: Daniel House
Aviante Collins faced a big challenge when transitioning to the NFL.
An offensive lineman born into a family of sprinters, Collins struggled to gain weight as he tried to keep up with the avid runners. Aviante’s father, Bill, and brother, Lavon, were both sprinters for the TCU track and field team. When NFL teams wanted Collins to add more weight during the draft process, he had to change the way he trained.
“[Gaining weight] was one of the hard things because my whole family was in track, so I’ve always ran my whole life, so I’ve always been more on the lighter end,” Collins said. “[It was a] little bit harder, but I’ve got it on now, so I’m pretty good.”
Collins’ large frame, athletic traits and mean streak helped him carve out a playing career at TCU. Those traits compensated for the fact Collins weighed in at just 284 pounds during his early college days. He slowly continued to add weight and went from 295 pounds in 2017 to 300 pounds by this year. A focus on working out correctly and following a nutrition plan has helped Collins accomplish his physical goals. He credits the Vikings’ brand new nutrition bar and the team dietitian for helping him grow physically.
“It’s just working out, putting on good muscle mass,” Collins said. “Everybody thinks it’s just eating, but that’s not the case. You have to eat the right things and you have to make sure you work out to put on the right muscle, so that’s what I did.”
In an offensive line room filled with uncertainty, Collins might be asked to play a bigger role.
The team announced Thursday, guard Nick Easton will miss the entire season with a herniated disk in his back, which means the team will be searching for young players to step up in his absence. Collins has primarily worked at left tackle, but spent time at left guard during portions of Wednesday’s practice. The team is exploring all options, but Collins’ strong training camp may put him in the conversation to claim one of the open starting roles. Right now, the second-year offensive linemen is preparing for any role thrown his way.
“It’s no telling right now, but I’ve always had the mindset that I’ll play wherever they want me to play,” he said. “I’ll play kicker, quarterback, whatever they need be to play because it’s all about making this team better. If they need me at guard, tackle, I’ll be ready to play.”
Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the team will be exploring all options when it comes to adding depth up front. However, the skill-set of Collins certainly fits well within a Vikings’ zone blocking scheme that emphasizes above average movement skills. Throughout training camp, Collins has been a stand-out player in numerous drills and is quietly making his mark.
“AC is a very athletic, big guy,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Has some power; good feet. Has some nasty streak, yeah. Like I said, we’re looking at a lot of different things [up front].”
The mean streak is something Collins takes great pride in, dating back to his playing days at TCU. He was well-known for finishing blocks in the second level and flashed this potential when the Vikings used him in jumbo running packages last season.
“I pride myself so much on that. Football, I’m not saying saying it’s mean, it’s a nasty sport though,” Collins said. “We can be best friends outside of the field, but when we’re on the field I’ve got a goal to accomplish.”
This offseason, Collins said he spent extensive time improving his hand technique, base and hips. The goal was to add these traits to an already athletic skill-set he has displayed in the past.
“Coming out of college, I was always just the more athletic type of body,” he said. “That’s one of the things that kind of helped me grow. Just being agile, being able to move my feet kind of helped me out in a lot of areas.”
However, Collins lacks game experience as he was on the field for just 31 snaps last year. It means he must learn quickly and improve fundamentally. He said following the example of veterans within the position has helped him significantly.
“Having all those people around me, you learn different techniques, learn different styles, learn different things in their head,” Collins said. “Everybody has something to teach, so just being around them, I learn little small things, whether it’s ‘take this step here, take that step there, you can tell by defense that he’s going to be there.’ Over time, that’s how you become a better player.”
Center Pat Elflein will be returning from the physically unable to perform list and guard Mike Remmers is recovering from a minor ankle injury. Those players will return to the offensive line unit, but with Nick Easton missing the entire season, the door is open for Collins to step up.
Right now, the second-year offensive lineman said the unit is just trying to stay cohesive, while fulfilling a motto the entire team strives to accomplish.
“We’re a unit,” he said. “No matter what happens, we’ve got each others backs and it’s next man up mentality, so that’s how it’s always been and that’s how it’s always going to be.”