La'el Collins was absent from the public eye as controversy swirled around him. When it finally came time to step back into the spotlight, the newest member of the Dallas Cowboys had plenty to say.
"I just want to thank God for this opportunity," Collins said to open his introductory press conference. "This opportunity sitting here in front of this organization, everything that it stands for, everything that these guys are trying to build here. I feel like I represent. I feel like I fit in. ... I had the opportunity to choose from 32 teams where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy."
The LSU offensive lineman displayed a big personality in what was an emotional scene at Cowboys headquarters. The press conference took place hours after Collins signed a three-year contract with the team. Collins was joined on the stage by his mother, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett.
Collins repeatedly referenced his faith for helping him to get through the past two weeks, a period in which he became involved in the murder investigation of ex-girlfriend Brittany Mills in Louisiana. That investigation is ongoing and Collins has not been named as a suspect. Collins thanked those who have stood by him during the ordeal, and spoke confidently about what will come next in his football career.
"I guarantee you this. I'm going to give this organization everything that I have and more," he said. "This is going to be the best offensive line in NFL history. Mark my words."
Collins said he sat down with his team and went through all 32 teams in the search for the best fit. He was swayed by Jones, who connected with him during a long late-night conversation.
"For the first time, I really felt like somebody had seen me for who I am," he said. "Somebody understood me."
Jones was emotional during parts of the press conference, wiping away tears while Collins and his mother spoke about how their faith guided them. Garrett said he got "chill bumps" listening to Collins share his story. The coach then made it clear that Collins would have an opportunity to compete for a starting job this summer.
"We're going to play our five best offensive linemen," the coach said.
Collins beamed about the next chapter in his life and football career.
"I'm extremely excited. I can't say that enough. I'm extremely excited," he said. "I chose to wear this star because I feel like I'm a star, and my family is a star and we will represent it very well."