UAB transfers Collin Lisa and Jordan Collier look to make UB their new home
Coming out of high school, Jordan Collier and Collin Lisa thought they were going to be a part of the “UAB football movement” – a group of recruits looking to bring the University of Alabama at Birmingham program to prominence. They both signed letters of intent and expected to have long, productive careers as members of the Blazers in Conference USA.
Or so they thought.
The Blazers became the first major football program since Pacific in 1995 to close its doors. The school was losing money in fielding the football team, losing $17.5 million in 2012-13, according to CBS Sports.
“I was hurt,” Collier, shaking his head when asked about the UAB program folding, said. “I was just hurt.”
After losing their team – which they had once dreamed of bringing to prominence – Lisa and Collier found a new home 906 miles from Birmingham: Buffalo.
Despite the fact UAB announced this summer it would bring back its football team around 2017, Lisa and Collier are now members of the Buffalo football team and are finding ways to make their new team successful.
No one was more hurt at the prospects of not playing football at UAB than Lisa.
“It was sad because you could really feel that we were part of a group that changed it there,” Lisa said. “I know the group of guys I came in with really wanted to win. It became night and day from what it was the year before we got there.”
Lisa came out of Georgia as a prized high school recruit. He was listed as a top-75 prospect by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was named team MVP after racking up 51 catches for 992 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior at Chattahoochee High.
Lisa received several offers from schools as came out of high school – even Buffalo – but he decided on UAB. Even after a coaching change at UAB, Lisa chose to accept the team’s scholarship offer.
“I held on to that UAB offer for a while,” Lisa said. “I was originally committed to the old staff but once that staff left I was thinking about not going, but I had such a good relationship with the guys so it just felt like home to me.”
Collier has been playing the game since he was 7 or 8 years old. He says his whole family is football orientated and lives to love football.
In his senior season of high school, Collier finished as a 2013 First Team AllRegional selection and a Georgia Class 6A First Team AllState player. His play on the field earned him recognition throughout the state and programs such as Florida State, Duke and Vanderbilt were all vying for his services.
After careful decision making, Collier decided to continue his football career at UAB, looking to make his mark at the same school that produced NFL first round picks Roddy White and Bryan Thomas.
“UAB just felt like home,” Collier said. “As soon as I got there, I was excited. The coaches, the players, the fans, they loved the game. They wanted to see the program go to new heights and I wanted to be a part of it. I couldn’t wait to lineup for them after I committed.”
But Collier’s UAB career was all for naught.
After taking a redshirt season with the Blazers, the program closed its doors and Collier was back on the recruiting trail, ten months after committing to a place he found to be “home.” He didn’t even play a single snap for the Blazers.
Unlike Lisa, Buffalo didn’t recruit Collier out of high school. And yet, he already had a connection on the roster waiting for him as he made the trip to visit.
Bulls freshman cornerback Brandon Williams and defensive end Randy Anyanwu played alongside Collier at Lovejoy High School in Lovejoy, Georgia. It was there where the three led the Panthers to a 102 record and ranked second in the state as seniors.
The connection with Williams and Anyanwu allowed Collier to join the Bulls with some familiarity.
“It was an instant connection,” Collier said. “I knew some of the players from high school, so that helped me a bit with the transition and the decision. Once I got to meet the coaches and the staff, I got to have a good relationship with them and decided to come to Buffalo.”
With no team, Lisa also went looking for a new program and it was Collier who helped him find it.
“I knew Jordan liked it [at Buffalo] a lot and we talked about it,” Lisa said.
One of the biggest attractions for Lisa: catching passes from Bulls senior quarterback Joe Licata and getting coached by Division-III legend Lance Leipold.
Lisa called Licata one of the best quarterbacks in the Mid-American Conference and said Leipold’s resume at Wisconsin-Whitewater “speaks for itself.”
Since joining the Bulls, Lisa has been one of Licata’s most reliable targets. He ranks third on the team in receptions (16) and yards (188). With senior receivers Ron Willoughby and Marcus McGill on the outside, Lisa has been a reliable target on third down as an inside receiver.
Collier had ascended up the defensive back depth chart out of the preseason, but a neck injury against Albany on opening weekend slowed his progress. He had to be loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher, which silenced the UB Stadium crowd with concern. He returned to the lineup after missing one game, but sophomores Ryan Williamson and Andrews Dadeboe are solidified as starters. For the season, Collier has one tackle in five games played.
With the Blazers returning and UAB re-opening it’s football program in a few years, both Lisa and Collier wished the program luck in its rebirth, but expressed relief in coming to a program like Buffalo. Collier especially was happy to make the decision to move to a more “stable environment” to start his football career.
“I still think I made the right decision,” Collier said. “Even though the program is coming back, it’s still unstable down there and you never know what can happen, but up here it’s stable and I have somewhere I call home.”
And for Lisa, he said he’s happy with the move and the transition. He’s been one of the more reliable targets for Licata and the Bulls in his first season and looks to “get better” as his career continues.
In the end, he believes the move could be a blessing in disguise for both he and Collier.
“I definitely feel like I made the right decision,” Lisa said. “It brings up anger though, you know we had to go through all that for basically nothing, but I think us ending up [in Buffalo] been a blessing in disguise.”
Five games into the 2015 season, the Bulls are 2-4 and 0-2 in MAC play. With the possibility of an East division title and a trip to Detroit for the Championship game slipping away, Lisa and Collier are focusing on trying to win rather than looking back.
“I’m not thinking about it,” Lisa said. “You always look back and think about things being different, but not now. We have games to play and our goal as a team here is to win and get to Detroit.”
Sixteen months ago, the goal for Collier and Lisa was to bring UAB to prominence and set goals for future teams. Now, the goal is to lead Buffalo its second MAC Championship in program history.
Quentin Haynes contributed reporting to this story
Romulo Romero is a sports staff writer. Sports desk can be reached at email@example.com.