Same Old Joe

Oct. 3, 2001

by Gina Gray

Joe Collier doesn't like onions. He doesn't like traffic. Collier doesn't like kids. In fact, Joe does not even really like people.

He would rather live in Wyoming where people are few, and wide-open spaces are plentiful. The truth is, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound senior tight end from Spokane, Wash. is shy. A monster on the football field, he is quiet, unassuming, even bashful in conversation with a stranger, preferring the shadows to the spotlight.

'I like being the guy no one knows. I don't like being in the spotlight,'comments Collier.

The football Collier and the regular Collier are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Those who know Collier, especially those who have played alongside him, appreciate his hard work and determination when the opening siren sounds.

Husky tight end John Westra, a close friend and roommate, comments that despite his mellow off-field persona, Collier is one of the toughest people he knows. The two share a very strong friendship, due in part to the fact they suffered key injuries within days of each other. Westra is certain that he jinxed Collier, and ever since, theyhave been best of friends.

'It was during our third year and we both had never been injured before,' Westra recalls. 'During one Monday practice, Joe blew out his MCL and that Saturday Iblew out my ACL. So, we had to go to rehab together. I forced Joe to bemy friend.'

The rehabilitation effort for both tight ends became a sort of off-field competition, with each tight end pushing the other one to endure the grueling recovery process.

'If one didn't want to go the other would make him,' Collier says.

While the ever-shy Collier avoids questions about himself and his accomplishments, Westra fills in the silence with stories that reveal his roommate's more playful side.

'When Joe first moved in with me and my wife, he claimed that he would never go near my baby daughter because he doesn't like kids,' Westra explains. 'One night she starts to cry and I wake up to take care of her and I see Joe has her in bed with him and they are playing with her toys,' recalls Westra.

Westra's revelation prompts perhaps the longest burst of conversation by Collier ever recorded by someone outside his personal circle.

'All lies! That is a straight lie!' an embarrased Collier laughs, his tough-guy persona in jeopardy.

'I think he now plays with her toys more that she does. He's always playing with her and holding her,' Westra says with a smile.

'I admit I said that I would never touch that kid, but now I play with herand her toys. I have grown to like her. She's all right now,' Collier admits, casting a smile and a 'we'll-have-words-later' glance at his fellow tight end.

This is just one story portraying Collier as a kind, quiet, good-heartedperson. His good friends on the team comment that he is a person who will do anything asked of him, no questions asked.

That attitude was put to the test in 1999, when the coaches asked him to switch from defensive line to tight end. Was Collier frustrated? No. He sees the big picture, and knows that regardless of what the coaches ask of him, he is fortunate to be where he is.

'It's exciting to be a member of a big-time team that you can always readabout in the newspapers,' he says.

This year, Collier will be tested in a different way. With early-season injuries to tight ends Jerramy Stevens and Kevin Ware, Collier suddenly finds himself thrust into a battle for the starting tight end position with Westra, and at the forefront of media interviews that threaten to destroy his precious anonymity. The player once content with remaining in the shadows, whose only desire is to be out in the country, away from people and traffic, will be at the center of attenttion for at least the next few weeks.

It is obvious that he will accept the challenge as he has every other, with a shrug and a smile. Football tough guy or late-night baby rocker, Collier is just happy being Joe.

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