Hartselle High graduate Patrick Collins, left, in black shirt with blue cap, gets an autograph from Decatur High graduate Taye Biddle, now a Carolina Panthers receiver.
Nothing finer in Carolina for this soldier
Before shipping out to Iraq, Hartselle grad enjoys meeting Panthers’ Biddle
By Ashley Hargrove
HARTSELLE — Hartselle native and Carolina Panthers fan Patrick Collins got to see his favorite NFL team practice recently, and he made a new friend from Morgan County in the process.
Collins, 23, who is in the Army, recently spent two months in Ft. Jackson, S.C., preparing for his second deployment overseas, this time to Iraq.
Since they were in the area, Collins and one of his friends made the hour-and-a-half trek to Spartanburg, S.C., for the Panthers’ training camp, something Collins called his first real taste of Carolina Panthers football.
“It was an awesome experience,” said Collins, a 2002 graduate of Hartselle High. “All of the guys were really nice. It was amazing to actually get to see them in person. You see them on TV and you know that they are real, but it doesn’t seem like it.”
Since Collins follows the Panthers closely on a regular basis, he was aware that former Decatur High standout Taye Biddle is entering his second season with the team.
So before Collins and his friend arrived at Wofford College to watch the Panthers practice, Collins made a sign that read “Taye Biddle” in hopes of catching his attention. When Collins’ mother was in the hospital recently, Biddle’s mother was one of her nurses, and Biddle’s mother suggested making the sign.
Sure enough, minutes after Collins arrived at practice, Biddle came over and introduced himself.
One of Biddle’s teammates had pointed out the sign to him, telling him that he obviously had a fan.
“The first thing I said to him was ‘Hey, My mom knows your mom,’ ” Collins said. “The people there probably thought I was crazy because everyone else was yelling names like Steve Smith and here I am yelling for Taye Biddle.
Hartselle grad Patrick Collins, a fan of the NFL’s Panthers, with Decatur graduate Taye Biddle, a receiver for Carolina.
“We didn’t get to talk long, but I enjoyed what time we did get to talk.”
Even though Collins is a couple of years younger than Biddle, he said he has memories of Biddle’s playing days at Decatur High.
“I remember going to games when Hartselle played Decatur and seeing him,” Collins said. “I always remember seeing his name in the paper. Having Taye in the NFL says a lot about the talent in Morgan County.”
Collins said he has liked the Carolina Panthers since the team came into existence in 1993 when he was 11. He’s been devoted to the team ever since.
“I guess I was just in one of those phases where I liked panthers,” Collins said. “Then when I was in fifth grade, they drafted Kerry Collins, and I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world to have a guy with the same last name as me playing for one of my favorite teams. It’s funny now that I look back on it.”
Shortly after graduating from Hartselle High, Collins joined the military. In 2004, he was deployed to Afghanistan where he served as a paralegal in a Judge Advocate General unit.
But before he left, he gave his mother, Heather, a little surprise — a cat that he had named “Sir Purr” after the Panthers’ mascot.
Collins leaves for Iraq in December for a 15-month tour, and although he said it will be tough, he said that the trip to see the Panthers was a nice sendoff.
“Getting to be in the presence of the team was amazing,” Collins said. “It’s something I will remember for a while. I’ll get to take my computer with me, so I will be tracking them online when I get the chance.”
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