But when Taylor was shot to death by an intruder in 2007, Collins knew little of Taylor's game. At the time, he was a 13-year-old running back who wanted to be just like Clinton Portis.
That dream ended when Collins got to Dutchtown High School in Geismar, Louisiana, and there was an upperclassman ahead of him on the depth chart. The coach told him that Eddie Lacy would be getting most of the touches, and the staff advised Collins to focus on defense, specifically safety.
"I looked up some of the best safeties in the game," Collins remembers. "First name that popped up: Sean Taylor. I was like damn, let me look up him. I started watching his film. I was like, wow. From that point on, I've always been a Sean Taylor fan."
Collins became a USA Today High School All-American, playing part of his career at safety alongside future NFL Pro Bowler Eric Reid. Collins, who was born in New Orleans and displaced to Geismar after Hurricane Katrina, was the second-ranked safety by Scout.com in the 2012 class and committed to Alabama, where his affinity for Taylor only increased.
"When I got to college, I got to pick the mind of some guys that played with him like LaVar Arrington, Ryan Clark and I even got to meet Clinton Portis, and pick their minds about him: What kind of player he was, what kind of caliber mindset he took to the game, how he was off the field, not just his personality, his character and everything like that, how he went throughout his day and stuff like that," Collins says. "I admired him so much, I wanted to know what he did, his eating habits and how he controlled himself. You see a great athlete on the field, but you never know the off-field things."
Now Collins, 22, may actually be ahead of Taylor's schedule. After earning PFWA All-Rookie Team honors last year with the Giants, Collins has taken the next step in 2016. Through 11 games, he has five interceptions, ten pass defections and 87 combined tackles. In Taylor's second season, he had two interceptions, 12 pass deflections and 70 combined tackles.
It took Taylor three seasons to make the Pro Bowl and four to become an All-Pro. Collins may hit both marks in year two, not to mention he is a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Collins was the NFL Defensive Player of the Month for November.
Collins wears No. 21 with the Giants, just as he did at Alabama, as a tribute to Taylor.
"I feel like that's the armor," Collins says. "I'm wearing his armor. When I put that number on, I'm always representing him in any form or fashion. I try to do my best by it."
Knowing his admiration for Taylor, Adidas created a pair of cleats called "State Of Miami" for Collins. Most Alabama Crimson Tide alumni would scoff at any Miami Hurricanes-themed cleats, but that shows the depth of Collins' respect.
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) November 29, 2016
Collins, who also says he grew up admiring Bob Sanders and Ed Reed, enters a crowded field of veteran safeties. The humble player (his Twitter and Instagram handles are literally @thehumble_21) dances around a question about him being the best safety in the league.
"It's only one year for right now," Collins says. "Second year in the game, but one year for right now. I still have a lot more to prove. You got Kam [Chancellor], you still got Earl [Thomas], you still have Eric Berry, you still got Harrison [Smith]. I still have all those guys in front of me."
But Collins has one thing those other safeties do not have: Practice time every week against Odell Beckham Jr., who was born in Baton Rouge and went to high school in New Orleans at Isidore Newman. Collins knew of Beckham in high school, and in college, the two studied each other for the annual Alabama-LSU game.
Now NFL teammates, they make each other better.
"Knowing wide receivers and what they like to do, what they're seeing, how they pick up zones and how they pick up man-to-man and how they try to get open," Collins says. " I pick his mind about stuff like that and get on the same page as him, being one of the top receivers in the game, and I want to be one of the top safeties in the game."
Collins has intercepted five quarterbacks in his short career: Sam Bradford, Case Keenum (twice), Carson Wentz, Andy Dalton and Jay Cutler. When asked who the one quarterback he wants to intercept is, Collins does not hesitate: "Tom Brady."
One year ago, with the Giants up 26-24 on the Patriots and 1:47 left, Brady tossed a pass into Collins' hands, but he dropped it as he hit the turf. The Patriots won the game on a last-second 54-yard field goal to move to 9-0. Coming off a Super Bowl title, the Patriots had won 12 straight.
"That's the one I always wanted back," Collins says. "They were on an undefeated season and that was my chance to break their record and be known as the person to break Tom Brady's record."
Unless the Giants and Patriots meet for a third time in the Super Bowl in the meantime, Collins will likely not see Brady again until 2019. But the most important place Collins wants to see Brady in is Canton.
"My goal as a player is to leave as first-ballot in the Hall of Fame," Collins says. "It's very do-able. Percentage-wise, it's not, but I have the heart, the dedication and the will to do it."
Collins spoke to ThePostGame from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, where he put the school's basketball and football teams through the "adidas Fast Feet Activation." The event was part of a string of events leading up to the opening of Adidas' New York City flagship store December 1.
"They want to be the next me," Collins says. "How do they do this, how they do that? I mean to hear [that], given the point is to be the guy that I am, it just gives me satisfaction that I'm doing something for them." Cardinal Hayes plays for a football state championship December 4.
— ThePostGame.com (@ThePostGame) December 2, 2016