Gasoline station burritos and one stoplight: Seahawks rookie rises from tiny hometown

11:34 AM ET

Brady HendersonESPN

L.J. Collier, the Seattle Seahawks’ first-round draft decide, comes from a West Texas city that is so small he might information a tour over the cellphone.

Begin at Allsup’s, the comfort retailer simply off the intersection of Freeway 222 and Route 277. Collier gave it a shout-out on draft night time, calling it a superb place to get a burrito, as if he was giving recommendation to potential guests.

5 blocks to the north is a Dairy Queen, the one eatery you will discover open on a fall Friday night time when nearly half of the residents are packed contained in the 600-seat Scruggs Area for highschool soccer.

To get there, you will drive via the one stoplight, if you happen to might name it one.

“Not even,” Collier mentioned. “It is only a gentle that sparkles.”

5 blocks west of the DQ is Munday Excessive, the place Collier graduated in 2014 amongst a senior class of 25 college students.

Retrace your steps from there and head again south on South Birch Avenue. You will see the enormous water tower in your left bearing the city’s title on one facet and the highschool’s nickname, the Moguls, on the opposite. It is likely to be the tallest construction in sight.

Kitty-corner from Allsup’s is Metropolis Corridor, the place the secretary can provide the actual inhabitants of Munday off the highest of her head: 1,388.

And now one among Munday’s personal is off to the NFL.

“He is representing his city,” Seahawks common supervisor John Schneider mentioned after deciding on Collier, a defensive finish, 29th total. “It is a large deal to him. He just about is aware of everyone within the city. Friday night time lights, consider that, you understand? It is a fairly cool deal.”

Seahawks defensive finish L.J. Collier jokes round along with his fiancee, Samantha Lane, after the primary day of rookie minicamp. AP Photograph/Ted S. Warren

Made in Munday

Pull up Munday in Google Maps and you will have to zoom approach out earlier than a recognizable metropolis — like Abilene or Fort Price — supplies geographical context.

It is about 190 miles northwest of Dallas and roughly 150 miles in the identical route from Fort Price, the place Collier attended faculty at TCU. There’s one public golf course that is situated simply exterior metropolis limits. The closest film theaters are greater than hour away in both Abilene or Wichita Falls.

“What you do on the weekends is you simply drive round in your truck and also you drive round on grime roads and hand around in someone’s discipline,” TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who grew up in West Texas and recruited Collier, mentioned in a cellphone interview with “That is just about what you do for enjoyable.”

Collier excelled on the sector when he acquired to TCU, ending with 11.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks throughout his senior season. However one main adjustment he needed to make as soon as he acquired to Fort Price was timing his automotive journeys to keep away from site visitors, one thing there is not a lot of in Munday.

“It was an ideal place to develop up at for a child, as a result of within the metropolis, you’ll be able to’t actually journey round in your bike rather a lot or do issues like that,” Collier mentioned. “I did a variety of that with my associates rising up. We might simply hunt rabbits and birds — me and my cousin did with my BB gun and stuff like that. I wasn’t actually a lot of a hunter, however as a child we normally shot stuff round the home and issues like that. We might leap on the trampoline rather a lot. We performed a variety of soccer.

“Could not actually get into a lot, nevertheless it was a variety of enjoyable. … I did not actually know the rest.”

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In Munday, just about everybody is aware of one another — or no less than is aware of of one another. There are few strangers, if any. Cumbie believes that helped form Collier’s outgoing nature.

“It is simply because he would not know any totally different,” Cumbie mentioned. “In every single place he is ever been, he is had a giant persona. I feel he would not have as many inhibitions most likely as some youngsters who come from greater cities the place possibly a few of that was suppressed at a sure age.”

Collier’s dad, Lawrence Sr., was born and raised in Munday. He nonetheless works within the oil fields and lives in close by Stamford. L.J.’s late mom, Ruby, was from 6 miles away in Goree. She was recognized with pancreatic most cancers when L.J. was a senior in highschool and died throughout her son’s second 12 months at TCU.

“That is the place a small city like that … folks can take a vested curiosity in you and so they decide you up and take you to high school and so they’re simply round you on a regular basis,” Cumbie mentioned.

For Collier, that particular person was Christel Shahan. She taught him math and science at Munday Excessive and finally grew to become part of his household.

“Principally, I informed her L.J. wanted to get his check scores up to have the ability to qualify, and so she took it upon herself to tutor him and meet with him daily further from an instructional standpoint,” Cumbie mentioned.

Shahan would preserve involved with Collier as soon as he left for Fort Price, usually speaking on the cellphone or texting.

“I knew what the school a part of it was going to be like as a result of I had been to varsity, however his household, he was the primary one to ever go to varsity,” Shahan informed “So I simply saved in contact with him on, ‘How’s it going? Are you going to class? How’s your courses going? How’s soccer?’ That form of stuff.

“When his mother acquired sick, I simply kinda began checking in on him a bit of extra and I acquired to checking in on his mother and pop and simply kinda serving to out, cooking supper or visiting, or going over and checking on her, simply to be somebody that kinda might preserve L.J. within the loop as a result of he was involved, clearly, about his mother. We acquired nearer on the finish. After which, clearly, after she handed away, then there was form of a void there. He simply wanted somebody. His dad was going via the lack of his spouse, his sisters had been going via the lack of their mom. He did not need to burden them, so I used to be simply there for him.”

Collier visited Shahan at the highschool at any time when he got here again to Munday. She usually made the three-hour drive to Fort Price to look at Collier play and laughs whereas recalling how their get together would normally be the final to depart TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium as a result of he had so many individuals to speak to.

“He is aware of everybody,” she mentioned.

Shahan was with Collier and his household in Frisco, Texas, when he acquired the decision from the Seahawks on draft night time. In any case, she was instrumental in that accomplishment in addition to one other: Collier graduating with a level in interdisciplinary research.

“I feel that a variety of his motivation and his drive and a few of the ardour that he performs with out on the sector comes from the motivation of desirous to please [his mom],” Cumbie mentioned. “I feel one of many final issues that she informed him was he wanted to get his diploma and make it possible for he graduated, and he did that.”

Courtesy of Allsup’s

‘They had been ecstatic’

Colton Summers, an attendant at Allsup’s, can verify that the deep-fried burritos Collier spoke of throughout his introduction are the actual deal. They go for $1.99 earlier than tax or two for $three with the present particular, he mentioned after excusing himself to help a buyer.

“I really like them, truly,” Collier mentioned. “They’re actually good. I took one among my associates from faculty residence one time and he ate like 9 of the issues.”

Throughout the road at Metropolis Corridor, Munday secretary Bianca Harrimon cannot recall a single well-known person who the city has produced.

“I do not actually suppose we’ve anybody, actually,” she mentioned with amusing.

However now they’ve Collier.

“When he acquired drafted, everyone was coming into the shop speaking about him,” Summers mentioned. “… They had been greater than proud; they had been ecstatic. … I feel it was the day of. As quickly as everyone discovered, they had been going loopy.”

Stated Collier: “It is an ideal feeling, man. It is good to have the help of my hometown and issues like that. I am very proud they’re supporting me and I am simply going to attempt my hardest to maintain persevering with to make them proud.”

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