Collins heaves the football, lunch during Tallulah’s drive for a championship

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, November 14, 2018

JACKSON — Tallulah Academy has been carried to an undefeated season on the legs of its superstar quarterback and a river of vomit.

Senior Joshua Collins has rushed for 2,414 yards and 49 touchdowns this season to lead the Trojans (12-0) into the MAIS 8-Man championship game on Saturday against Manchester Academy (12-0). Behind the slick moves and speed, however, is a nervous ball of energy with a disgusting pregame — and sometimes in-game — ritual.

Collins throws up. A lot.

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“I’ve been doing that for four years. Every game. It’s just nerves. Fear of messing up. Don’t want to let anybody down, I guess,” Collins said. “It drains me a little bit, but I still do fine. I just play my game. I throw up and get back out there. I’ve tried taking medicine for it, but I just can’t help it. It just happens.”

Collins has hardly let anyone down in his two seasons as Tallulah’s starting quarterback. After being a part-time player on the school’s 2015 and 2016 state championship teams, he ran for 1,503 yards and 22 TDs in 2017.

This season, Collins has averaged 201.2 rushing yards per game, and also thrown for 579 yards and nine touchdowns. With him as the engine, the Trojans are averaging a touchdown every 3.9 plays. Only one of their 12 games has been decided by less than 26 points.

“He’s our powerhouse. He’s our one guy we depend on. We all contribute, but he’s our biggest contributor. When you block for him, you get out of his way and you let him do his thing. It’s like watching a show,” senior running back Garrett Paris said.

Collins’ athletic ability was on full display in last week’s 52-20 semifinal win over Prairie View Academy. He ran for 211 yards and three touchdowns, threw a touchdown pass, and returned an interception 62 yards for yet another score.

Along the way, he left a heap of frustrated defenders grasping at air while making sharp cuts and accelerating on a muddy field.

“The field was muddy. I was slipping and sliding. He’s over there like he was on concrete. He’s juking people left and right. I’ve never seen somebody like that before,” Paris said.

Collins credited his line for both his and the team’s success. While Collins is the leading rusher and focal point of the offense, Paris has also run for 682 yards and 14 touchdowns and the team has 3,829 yards and 78 TDs on the ground.

“My line has stepped up so much this year it’s crazy. From how we were last year, they’ve matured so much and gotten stronger and faster. Not only me, but everybody has been running good behind them,” Collins said.

But back to the vomit.

Collins’ teammates have learned to live with their quarterback’s quirk, even if it means watching where they step.

“Our center fell into it one time and he was kind of grossed out. I don’t think about it. I see him throw up and try to watch out for it,” Paris said. “Later on in the week you can go out and see where he threw up because there’s dead grass.”

Game officials less familiar with the team, however, aren’t as quick to dismiss it. Collins has occasionally been forced out of games because they think he’s sick or injured. His teammates often explain the situation with a surprising level of nonchalance.

“We thought he was a little sick, and then he told us he was nervous. I thought he just drank too much water. Then when it started happening more and more, it was no big deal,” senior defensive end Parker Morgan said. “The refs will look at him and ask if he’s OK, does he need a timeout, and we’re like, ‘No, he does this every game.’”

Lately, Collins said, the nausea has started happening later. He was on the sideline early in the Prairie View game coughing and wheezing. He doesn’t play every down on defense, but didn’t miss a play on offense until being pulled with a 30-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

“For some reason it’s been later in the first quarter the past few games. I just come out a play, throw up, and come back in,” Collins said.

Despite his pregame routine, Paris said Collins isn’t a bad seatmate on road trips.

“He’s not real bad on a bus. He’ll listen to music or something,” Paris said. “It’s when we get out there and everybody’s hollering and you’re about to play. Sometimes he’ll go four or five plays and he’s fine, and then out of nowhere he’s over there heaving. We give him room.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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