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A Flight To Remember As Zaven Collins Starts Cardinals' Life

First-round pick gets flyover of hometown before Michael Bidwill gets him to Valley

First-round draft pick Zaven Collins boards the plane piloted by Michael Bidwill Friday morning to take his flight to Arizona for the first time.
First-round draft pick Zaven Collins boards the plane piloted by Michael Bidwill Friday morning to take his flight to Arizona for the first time.

The plane to take Zaven Collins from his former life into his new life took off from Tulsa, Collins' new boss Michael Bidwill at the controls.

But before the Cardinals owner took his first-round draft pick back to Arizona, first came a brief aerial tour of Collins' home state, including a trip over his tiny hometown of Hominy (population 3,500.)

"Mr. Bidwill went out of his way and he didn't have to do that," Collins said. "He wanted to do it for me, and I really appreciate that."

Bidwill, who originally wasn't going to make the flight himself, had thought about taking the slight detour as he and his co-pilot came into Tulsa. So they worked out a slight deviation of the flight plan to be able to take a pass over Collins' world.

"I just thought it be a cool thing, for a guy coming from a small town on his way the day after being drafted, to be able to reminisce a little bit about where his football career started," Bidwill said.

It's only about 42 miles from Hominy to Tulsa. It's about 120 miles to drive from Hominy to Oklahoma City, and more than 1,000 miles from Hominy to Tempe. It's a different life he's about to lead, so perhaps it was fitting Collins chose to show up at his first day on the job by himself, flying in to meet his other bosses – GM Steve Keim, coach Kliff Kingsbury – face-to-face.

They knew what they have in the linebacker, through the studying leading into the draft and after his headline-grabbing first phone call Thursday night where Keim told him the Cards were drafting him – a video that caught the NFL Nation's attention earlier Friday.

Devin White and Lavonte David It was in that video where Collins -- his language sometimes spicy – also said he wanted to help the Cardinals win a Super Bowl ring so big a "show dog wouldn't be able to jump over it."

A friend in Hominy once used the saying, Collins said, and it stuck as a joke, but also something Collins still uses. A piece of home that already got people's attention.

"I hope no one ever takes anything I say too serious," Collins said. "But it's also the truth. I want to get a Super Bowl ring, and I want to do it for these fans."

The video also showed more of what Collins is, beyond a beastly athlete of an inside linebacker who was taken so the Cardinals can hopefully make he and Isaiah Simmons a three-down linebacker duo with the kind of impact of the Super Bowl champion Bucs tandem of Who and Who or the Seahawks' longtime difference-makers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, or even back to Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman of the 49ers.

"I don't think it's too big for him," Keim told Arizona Sports. "You not only see it in his play, but when you come in contact with him."

That was part of the reason Bidwill was glad it turned out he did make the trip to pick up Collins.

"I was like, OK, now I get to spend a little more time with him, as opposed to the five or 10 minutes he'd be walking around the building here," Bidwill said. "I could talk to him a little bit about the history of the team, about the organization, I asked him about his family."

As the group got back to Arizona, Bidwill flew over Flagstaff, over Sedona, and Bidwill invited Collins to sit in the cockpit's jump seat for the landing for a unique experience.

As they headed over north Scottsdale, Bidwill pointed out State Farm Stadium – Collins' new home – visible on the other side of the Valley.

Collins was a long way from Hominy, the crucible from which he came.

"It's like having a big family in a small town," Collins said. "Everyone knows everyone, they are like your parent. You go across town and doing something you're not supposed to, your mom will know or your family will know even before you get back home.

"And everyone wants to see you succeed. Truly."

Zaven Collins looks at his high school from above as the plane carrying him from Oklahoma to Arizona Friday, the day after Collins was drafted.
Zaven Collins looks at his high school from above as the plane carrying him from Oklahoma to Arizona Friday, the day after Collins was drafted.

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