An ordained minister, Kilcrease exemplifies ‘team guy’ role for Golden Eagles

By CAMAL PETRO,

“I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

That phrase is a highlight of a couple’s life, and it’s something Southern Miss senior Collin Kilcrease can legally say if he’s officiating a wedding. It’s not hard to become an ordained minister, and it all started with a conversation with his friends while in high school.

A Google search and two weeks later, it was official.

“Not yet,” Kilcrease said when asked if he’s performed a ceremony. “Everyone is actually just now starting to get engaged. I’m hoping the phone is going to get hot pretty soon. A lot of (my friends) have told me they want me to do it, and I will 100 percent do it.”

Kilcrease has been a journeyman for the Golden Eagles, bouncing from defense to offense throughout his time in Hattiesburg. Leading up to the 2018 season, he’s been practicing at tight end and at H-back.

The Whitesboro, Texas native played running back in high school, but he was moved to linebacker once he stepped foot on campus. Kilcrease was a walk-on, too, and he didn’t get the phone call inviting him to camp until a few days before players reported in 2014.

“It was like late July,” Kilcrease recalled. “I got a message, ‘Hey, we have an opening spot for camp. Can you be here in five days?’ I had to pack up my bags and I stayed in a hotel July 30, we had a meeting July 31 and camp started Aug. 1. I’ve never looked back.”

Kilcrease was going to attend Southern Miss regardless, but he wouldn’t have gotten to campus until school started, and he was still going to try to walk on to the team, though. He wanted to go a school that was far from home, but at the same time, not too far so his family could watch him play. After all, Southern Miss plays a lot of games in the state of Texas, so his family could see him more often.

He started off as a linebacker, then moved to running back for a few years and now he’s listed as a tight end on the roster while taking snaps at H-back, too. In Saturday’s scrimmage, he had one reception for 13 yards.

Todd Monken was the head coach for Kilcrease’s redshirt freshman and freshman seasons then when Jay Hopson arrived, he was moved to the offensive side of the ball. Running back was the position he came to Southern Miss to play, but it was full of future NFL players like Jalen Richard and a young freshman named Ito Smith.

Moving around from position to position didn’t bother Kilcrease. He wants to do his part to help this team win a conference title.

“My whole mindset coming to Southern Miss was find the quickest way to the field,” Kilcrease said. “If the coaches believe in you at this position, you can succeed.”

When Hopson arrived in early 2016, the conversation to move him back to offense began. Kilcrease hasn’t gotten a lot of production, though, as he’s only totaled 28 yards on eight carries in his career, and he has only caught one pass for eight yards but he understood his role and embraced it.

“Collin is a team guy,” Hopson said. “A guy we look to for special teams and he has an opportunity at the H-back and lay claim to a position.”

Southern Miss offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson can easily see Kilcrease’s team-first mentality.

“He’s going to serve a very important role this year,” Dawson said. “He’s going to play a lot of positions, and I feel like we could probably put him at three different positions and he’d know what to do and do it well.

“He’s a great example of a guy who’s hung around to a point where he’s going to play a lot of football. You love to see guys like that work out.”

During the offseason, videos of coaches giving walk-on players scholarships start to surface. It’s a feel-good moment for all parties, and networks like ESPN replay the joyous scene. For Kilcrease, however, he found out that he was put on scholarship in less of a spectacle.

The feeling was the same, though.

“It was in an email,” Kilcrease said with a laugh. “I was actually on my way to take a test.”

Hopson sat Kilcrease down in the spring of 2017 to pay him some compliments and give him some leftover scholarship money for the summer, but the full scholarship didn’t come for a little while later.

“I just happened to be checking my email and I saw a notification,” Kilcrease said. “It said, ‘Congratulations, you’re on full scholarship.’ That was probably the worst time to see it because I was about to go take a test.”

So, what did Kilcrease make on that test?

“I aced it.”

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