TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Landon Collins wasn't going to deny how much beating LSU meant to him personally. When he chose Alabama over LSU as a high school senior, the backlash was harsh. It affected him as much as those closest to him. And while he wouldn't characterize his motivation as revenge, specifically, there was an extra hop in his step on Saturday night.
"Definitely extra sweet," he said of the 38-17 win. "I was showing everybody I picked the better team."
His mother, April Justin, wasn't there to see him play against the hometown Tigers. She would have been happy for him, but not the top-ranked Crimson Tide. She became infamous for her disapproval of him committing to Alabama, and her misgivings haven't cooled. Justin went to Florida on an official visit with her other son, Gerald Willis, rather than attend the Alabama-LSU game.
She would have seen Collins show out against LSU had she been there. He was one of the stars on defense for Alabama, starting at safety where he racked up four tackles, broke up a pass and recovered a key fumble in the first half that changed the momentum of the game.
Victoria Lowery, Collins' girlfriend who was widely cited as the reason for his committing to Alabama in the first place, was in Tuscaloosa to see the Tide beat up on the Tigers to remain undefeated and in the driver's seat to win the SEC. A sophomore student at UA, she loved every minute of it.
Alabama pulled away in second half, outscoring LSU 21-3 in the final 30 minutes. The defense was stifling, crushing Zach Mettenberger with four straight sacks late in the game. Alabama's offense came out on the field to knee the ball three times to get the clock to all zeroes.
"Domination," Collins said happily of the play in the second half. "We came out and stuck it to them. Somebody had to come to their breaking point and that's what we tried to do with them."
He's still learning, but Collins has emerged as a rising star on Alabama's defense.
"Landon does a tremendous job," UA linebacker Trey DePriest said. "I'm really proud of him. He struggles sometimes in practice … but on Saturdays, I don't really have too much to say because he goes out there and does his job and performs."
Whether it's an emotional game or not, expect Collins to play with a fire in his belly. He might not have the extra motivation of facing LSU against this season, but now he has something more important to prove: He belongs.
Injured safety Vinnie Sunseri isn't coming back this season, UA coach Nick Saban reiterated on Monday, so look for Collins to continue start in his stead. And with more games like he had against LSU, Collins might not give the job back.