Lebanon County native Kerry Collins was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 1995, starting a 17-year stay in the NFL that included stops in New Orleans, New York, Oakland, Tennessee and Indianapolis. Collin was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
It was Hershey native Ernie Accorsi, then General Manager of the New York Giants, who made the deal to get Collins after following him during his Penn State career.
“I really became aware of Kerry when he played at Penn State, because, despite all the scouting I did, I always went to a game every year and even went to the 1994 Rose Bowl game when they beat Oregon, who was a 17 point favorite, 38-20,” Accorsi said. “I also knew the Giants were not going to be able to pick him in the 1995 draft because he would go too high for us.
“Over the years, as a youngster, I followed Penn State football and I feel he was probably the best passing quarterback they ever had,” added Accorsi. “He had a tremendous talent with his greatest day with the Giants coming in a five touchdown passes game against Minnesota in a 41-0 victory in the 2000 NFC Championship game.”
The Giants trusted their scouts when they rated a player with a high grade, which was one reason Accorsi was interested. Another was because of his Penn State contacts that he knew would give him truthful information.
“Joe Paterno was so high on him and Phil Pennington did a complete research project on Kerry who said everyone he talked to had had nothing but praise about him,” Accorsi said. “When Kerry left New Orleans, we trusted our sources and knew his talent, so I called his agent to set up a meeting. I had never met him, despite being from the same area, but because of that, it became a touching point and we could personalize the conversation. This might seem silly, but he liked Deangelis pizza which I grew up on.
“I also pointed out that there might be one or two other pro franchises that would give him the same experience he enjoyed at Penn State but I’ve never heard of any player who said he wanted out of the Giants organization.,” continued Accorsi. “The saying we have is ‘Once a Giant, Always a Giant.’”
Collins played in two Pro Bowl Games, connected on 208 touchdown passes in his 198 games played, and led the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV that ended in a Baltimore victory. Collins also guided his teams to a win over every NFL team except Miami.
“I got criticized when I gave Kerry a big contract, because others felt there was no competition for him but an acquisition like that, when you don’t have to give up players, and yes it was my owner’s money, I wanted to make sure he knew we were committed to him,” Accorsi said. “He came in, and in his second season took us to the Super Bowl against a team that was the quickest defense I’ve ever seen. An assistant coach told our coaches that you will never understand how quick they are from the film. You have to see it in person and they just bottled us up.”
Accorsi then mentioned a quote by another former Penn State quarterback, Todd Blackledge, who said, “I evaluate a quarterback by what he does on third down, what he does in the red zone and what he does in the fourth quarter when his team is trailing.” Collins checked all of those boxes.
Accorsi’s first NFL team was with the Baltimore Colts when Johnny Unitas, who wasn’t a great athlete, but was the type of guy who had all the qualities you would want in a quarterback and that’s what Collins was without being a yeller or screamer.
In 2007, Accorsi retired with no plans, but he did have offers from three or four teams to be a GM that were turned down. That was until the commissioner offered him a spot with the league that he accepted and he ended up consulting for six different teams over ten years to help them hire general managers and coaches.
He is back in Hershey and at this time is planning to be there permanently after living in Manhattan for 27 years.