Brandon Marshall hadn’t even heard of Landon Collins until last season. That’s when the wide receiver, who then was playing for the Jets and working on the program “Inside the NFL,” saw footage of the Giants safety while he was miked up in a game.
“The way he led stood out to me,” Marshall, now a Giants teammate of Collins’, said this past weekend. “I really haven’t seen anyone lead that way since Brian Dawkins. For him to be so young, I thought it was even more impressive. He’s a stud. You don’t get better than that at that position.”
That’s the kind of endorsement Collins might put on a commercial or pamphlet if he were running for elected office. In fact, he might want to do that anyway. Because in a way, he is.
He’s a candidate for the highest office in the football locker room: captain. It’s a title he’s coveted since he came into the league two years ago. After last season’s breakout performance, he now believes he’s ready for it.
“Eventually it’ll happen,” Collins told Newsday. “I’m working on it this year, but I’d expect to have it by the fourth year [next season]. If I don’t get it this year, I expect to get it next year.”
Collins has not been shy about his desire to be the team’s defensive captain. He mentioned it several times in interviews during the offseason. “One of my ultimate goals is to get that ‘C’ on my chest,” he said when he showed up for training camp on Thursday.
He also noted it at a few points last year as he emerged as a dominant player. Whenever he was asked if the group was turning into his defense, he would shake his head. “Not until there is a ‘C’ on my chest,” he would say.
This year, there could be.
“I think Landon has done a great job with what he’s doing off the field,” said linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who was last year’s defensive captain. “His on-the-field play speaks for itself. The guy played, if not one of the best seasons at safety, then the best season at safety last year. He’s doing a lot on the back end as far as communication getting the younger guys lined up, which is crazy because Landon is a younger guy too. But he’s played so much football in his two years that he is a vet. I think he’s shown that.”
That’s not to say Casillas is ready to hand over the patch. It’s something that he, too, spent his career working toward and is “grateful and very humbled” by the honor. He even gave a little stump speech of his own for re-election.
“I feel like I’m one of the most capable [candidates],” Casillas said. “I may not have the athletic ability I used to, I may not be that marquee name, but I feel like I handle my business the right way. I know what it takes to win — I do have two Super Bowl rings — and I’ve been at the bottom [as an undrafted rookie] . . . I think a lot of guys can get something from me.”
Collins and Casillas will have competition from other players, too. Jason Pierre-Paul is one of the most respected defensive players on the team (and the only defensive starter with a Super Bowl ring as a Giant). Damon Harrison is probably the most popular player on the team, and his All-Pro play speaks volumes.
In his first season with the Giants last year, Harrison even got one of Casillas’ two votes for captain. Who got the other?
“I voted for myself,” Casillas said with a smile. “Damn right. I would have voted for myself twice, but I didn’t think that would be fair.”
The vote for captain usually takes place in the run-up to the first game of the season once the 53-man roster is whittled down over Labor Day weekend. Until then, Collins said he’ll be trying to show his teammates that he deserves the recognition.
“You showcase it on the field every day, you showcase it in the meetings every day,” Collins said. “Sometimes [the captain is] the person who talks the most, the person who is most respected. Sometimes it’s the person who is making the most plays. It depends on how you feel about a player, what your relationship is and how much respect you have for him.”
Collins and Casillas said they will not alter their attitudes if they are not the captain in 2017.
“At the end of the day, if I don’t have it, I still feel like I’m one of the leaders on the team,” Collins said. “The guys look up to me and listen to me.”
Said Casillas: “I’m still going to be out there talking crap and getting the young guys going.”
Those words and actions are amplified when they come from a captain, though. Like in a western movie, the guy with the star pinned to his vest is immediately recognized and respected.
“It’s a little different when you have the ‘C’ on your chest,” Casillas said. “When you look at it, there are regular jerseys without a ‘C,’ and you have a jersey with a ‘C.’ ”
It’s something Casillas already has experienced. And something Collins desperately wants.