‘Cadillac’ Cris
Cris Collinsworth is hoping his success at the University of Florida will lead him to NFL riches.
“Time Loves A Hero”

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sandy felsenthal

Taking Florida Field as an All-American, Cris Collinsworth’s future was coming into high-expectations view.

by David Futch
Alligator Staff Writer

For Cris “Cadillac” Collinsworth, playing the collision sport that pays for his college education is like the gamble David took with Goliath.

He doesn’t even look like a football player, much less the “Cadillac.” It’s the pipe-cleaner legs that give him away, His wiry, 6-foot-4-inch frame rarely carries more than 185 pounds during an entire football season:

Still, the sleek, 21-year-old spends autumn Saturday afternoons content with running in and out and up and down a green, plastic rug in pursuit of an oblate, oblong spheroid.

And content he should be. He does his thing better than any other college football player in America.

In August, Playboy magazine selected him in August as its All-American wide receiver.

Professional football teams pay dearly for players with those credentials. In Cadillac’s case, probably about $300.000, just for signing a contract.

Broken down, that would be about $1,621.62 a pound, for simply writing his name on the dotted line. In other terms, Grade A, rib eye steak at your neighborhood supermarket.

For a while I was indifferent about playing pro ball, but now I want to. I’ve been playing since I was in the sixth grade, and it’s been a lot of hard work. To go pro would be an honor.”

— Cris Collinsworth

Coaches, fellow football players, and friends have said for years Collinsworth would be an All-American. Mom and Dad knew it before he played his first youth league football game a dozen years ago.

We never had to push him in school or athletics, says Abe Collinsworth, Cris’ father. “It was almost a hands off attitude. He’s a self-starter, and looking after his priorities is his standout feature. He knows when he can go to the beach and when he has to study. Collinsworth, a native of Titusville (Fla.), dismisses his All-American status. He calls himself “just an ordinary guy.”

Cadillac may be “ordinary” in his own eyes, but UF head football coach Charley Pell said Collinsworth’s personal character and motivation make him much more than ordinary.

“There are a lot of gifted athletes around – in prison, on the streets — but ability alone does not make a great athlete.” Pell said.

“The things that separate the great athlete from the mediocre athlete are character and self motivation. In Cris you also have an outstanding student.”

A senior accounting maior, Collinsworth has maintained a 3.1 grade point average, and plans to apply to law school if he’s rejected by the pros.

In short, he is a winner.

It’s almost an obsession with him. said Jay Johnson, his Yon Hall athletic dorm roommate of four vears.

Shuffle the cards, serve up the ping-pong ball, pull out the driver, but don’t give him a break or you lose,  Johnson said.

At Titusville Astronaut High School, Collinsworth was a fast, but scared sophomore when he started his first varsity football game. The War Eagles won every game that vear The then skinny, 165-pound kid was headed for fame. Before graduation, the multi-talented athlete was an America high school quarterback, state 100 yard dash champion for 3A schools, all-state basketball player conference baseball player,

From the moment Collinsworth stepped onto Florida Field, four years ago, he became UF’s big-play weapon. >>>

“King Grand”
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sandy felsenthal


>>> After UF had run up the score on Rice University, Collinsworth came in and tossed a 99-yard touchdown pass to tie a National Collegiate Athletic Association passing record for the longest touchdown pass.

He has also scored from 52, 58, 63, and 92 yards out. Cadillac was an All-Southeastern Conference selection in 1978 and 1979, and All-SEC Academic player for the past three seasons.

But in there success after college football? Collinsworth hopes so for two reasons.

“For a while I was indifferent about playing pro ball, but now I want to,” he said. “I’ve been playing since I was in sixth grade and it’s been a lot of hard work. To go pro would be an honor.

“The pros are the best of the best. So it’s for pride now — plus all that money they dish out.”

Money will be the reward for the years of sacrifice, but the transition from little-known jock to big man on campus has its costs, Collinsworth said.

The price for fame and glory includes learning the equally intriguing game of diplomacy. Those in the limelight must be careful about what they say to the press.

The derivation of the nickname Cadillac is a “stupid story,” Collinsworth said.  It was a gift from Gator defensive tackle Van Jones. The two were being fitted for helmets during the Florida High School All-Star game in Gainesville following their high school graduation.

Equipment managers spent 30 minutes trying to find a helmet that fit Collinsworth. But that Cadillac head was just too big, Jones told him. Reporters picked up the story and the name stuck.

Collinsworth also has learned to stay away from nightclubs. He doesn’t drink alcohol anyway, though he has an occasional beer with the boys. Frequenting late-night watering holes can tarnish the image — people like to gossip, he said.

“If people see me at a club they’ll say, ‘I saw Cris Collinsworth drunk last night at Chelsea’s Pub.” he said. “Being an All-American, you have to learn how to cope with it. I prefer going to a quiet place with my girlfriend.”

The allure of Gainesville night life lost its shine in the middle of Collinsworth’s sophomore year. Party time was replaced by something on a higher order — the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

When the sandy blond, blue-eyed Collinsworth came to Gainesville four years ago, he was not one to kneel and pray on a regular basis. He rarely went to church when he was growing up.

Collinsworth called himself a C and E Christian — a person who goes to church Christmas and Easter. He would drop a dollar in the basket and figured he was covered for the year.

An ulterior motive led him to his first FCA meeting. Sororities sent their finest and with eyes shining,  and Collinsworth said “there were some real darlin’s there.”

But after a while, some questions were posed that made me think about where I was going, and after a couple of years, FCA became a part of my life,” he said. “It gave me an out, and a chance to get back to a lifestyle I was accustomed to.”

FCA is one part of  Collinsworth’s concept of the total athlete. Talent, a few good years and publicity are the other necessary ingredients. Beyond that, it’s someone who’s positive, Collinsworth said.

“That makes the difference,” he said. “I can tell you, I’ve put in my time speaking to church groups and kids.”

Collinsworth believes it is an athlete’s pulic duty to do such speaking.

Most of the time he warns them about drugs.

“I never try to get preachy about it, because that just doesn’t work,” he said. “I try a softer approach. Without ever saying ‘don’t,’ I try to tell these kids that as an athlete you give up something if you do drugs. I’m fortunate that I have super parents. They constantly cared.”

Growing up on Florida’s East Coast, drugs seemed to grow up with him, Collinsworth said.

“I didn’t trust drugs and I knew if I had tried them I might like them,” he said. “I just didn’t like the image drugs portrayed.

“It doesn’t bother me if someone else around is smoking pot. I have friends who have smoked pot right beside me. The way I figure it, it’s an individual thing.”

There just are better things to do and not much time to do them, Collinsworth said.

A typical weekday during football season starts at 7 a.m. There are classes until noon, and then break for lunch before trainers begin binding ankles and knees with adhesive tape. Game films of upcoming opponents precede the 3 p.m. practive that ends three sweat-filled hours later. After dinner is served at 7 p.m., Collinsworth heads back to his room to study.

But before catching a few hours sleep, Cadillac likes to chew, and often loads up on Red Man chewing tobacco.

In the off-season, between quarters, Collinsworth enjoys another sport — doing absolutely nothing.

During football season, there are so many responsibilities — responsibilities to the football team, my teammates, my girlfriend, school, reporters,” he said. “My happiest times are when I have zero responsibilities, and can go out and play golf and tennis.

“I love golf and tennis. I hate alarm clocks.”

So Cadillac Collinsworth is just an ordinary guy with a million-dollar future. His southern accent has that gentlemanly flavor, while the ego stays at bay.

Fame is fleeting, but still savored.

I love for people to come up to me and talk about the game. I don’t think I’m a celebrity or a Romeo, but it’s a whole lot nicer to be recognized than not.”


october 24, 1980
vol 74 no 25


Jayne Thompson and her associate set out to ASSASSINATE GREG TAYLOR, a transfer student from Alabama, FOR THE FUN OF IT.

“Don’t Kill It Carol”
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