Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler had a problem. Because of COVID-19 in 2020, the Bearkats were forced to play in the spring of 2021, winning the FCS National Championship with a 10-0 record. Sam Houston ha a short time before beginning another season this past September. Still, 6-foot-2, 202-pound senior cornerback Zyon McCollum would get out on his own every morning and work with a receiver to hone his craft.
Keeler told McCollum to take it easy, he would wear himself out for the fall season.
McCollum, who was originally a Utah commit, wouldn’t back off from the extra work. Because of the Bearkats gained national attention, coupled with McCollum’s additional work, he’s rising on some NFL draft charts. Maybe even in the eyes of the Eagles. When thinking of McCollum, think of a poorman’s Bobby Taylor, a tall, lean corner with ball skills that interrupted 54 passes and made 13 interceptions during his time at Sam Houston.
His play merited an invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl, McCollum also received an invite to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
As for positives, McCollum has a 31 1/8-inch arm length that can reach out and cause problems for receivers. He has great speed (4.33 in the 40) to keep up with smaller, faster receivers. As for his negatives, McCollum could use a few more pounds on his lean frame and where numerous scouting reports extol his aggressive tackling, many also consider it a weakness, where in flying to the ball doesn’t allow him to wrap up properly. He’s also very good in man coverage but has had limited experience in zone coverage.
None of the negatives matter to Keeler.
He’s seen him every day.
“Every NFL team has been in to talk to me about him,” Keeler said. “Zyon had one of the highest grades when it came to athleticism at the (NFL) Combine with the 4.33 in the 40. He has NFL size, plus he tested through the roof. Every NFL team has been through, and the Eagles, I know have a need for a cornerback. Zyon comes from a great family. His mom is a rock star and had raised the twins (Tristin McCollum). Zyon works so hard, he’s the kind of kid that you have to tell to go home.
“We had that problem this past season. We played 10 games (in the spring of 2021) because COVID knocked our fall season out. Then, Zyon and the group came back to play in this past fall. Zyon is one who puts the extra hours in. I had concerns about the wear-and-tear the guys were putting on their bodies. I had to tell Zyon to back off. But when you have to tell a guy to back off, that’s pretty cool. It shouts about work ethic, and about a great locker room presence.
“Whoever gets Zyon, and his stock is rising, they’re going to get a great leader to their young guys, a great locker room presence and someone who’s going to be a 10-, 11-, 12-year veteran. Zyon is one of the best human beings that I’ve been around, and he’ll only add to whatever team takes him.”
McCollum is being projected to go anywhere from the mid-second day to the third day in the draft. A willing tackler who plays the run with aggression, and has the speed to cover in open areas, McCollum could be a sleeper pick for the Eagles to consider in the later rounds.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.