Bluefield native Mookie Collier shines on big stage at the Celebration Bowl

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Followers of high school football in West Virginia were well-acquainted with Bluefield High School graduate Mookie Collier five years ago. In 2017, Collier rushed for 2,235 yards and 39 touchdowns while leading the Beavers to the Class AA state championship. He won the MetroNews Player of the Year and Kennedy Award honors.

On Saturday, Collier not only helped North Carolina-Central to a win over Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl, his stiff arm play on a 19-yard run that set up the eventual game-winning touchdown, went viral.

“That move is something that I always practice with my running backs coach, [Kevin] Maurice. All the drills that we do, I end with a stiff arm. Before the game, I had prayed for something monumental to happen to turn the game around in a positive way. It was an inside zone play. The outside was free,” Collier said.

“I didn’t know it was bad until a got back on the sideline and my teammates said, ‘That stiff arm. You’re like Derrick Henry’. It didn’t think it was that bad. But then after the game, we enjoyed the win. And I get to my phone and go on social media. I see ESPN SportsCenter has posted it. I was like, ‘Oh man’.”

Dec 17, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; North Carolina Central Eagles running back Latrell Collier (5) reacts after running for a touchdown against the Jackson State Tigers during the second half during the Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The 41-34 victory for NCCU capped a 10-2 season, giving the Eagles the HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] National Championship. The game was played in front of a crowd of 49,670 fans inside Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“When our backs were a little bit against the wall, we fought. We believed and we had faith in each other. We executed and everybody did their one-eleventh. We all just executed when it was time to execute.”

Collier started his college career at Marshall University. He redshirted during the 2018 season and later transferred to NCCU.

“I knew in 2019 that great things were in store. We had a real young group and a quarterback [Davius Richard] who is a phenomenal guy now and a star.

“Over the years, I knew God would do something amazing for us if we just stayed patient, trusted the process and trusted each other.”

Collier started to earn more carries late in the 2021 season and ended up being the team’s leading rusher as a redshirt sophomore.

“Towards the end of the season, I was starting to get more opportunities. With two great running backs that were in front of me, Isaiah Totten and Jorden Freeman, they were seniors and they were seeing how I could handle things. This year, all of that was motivation. Those things weren’t happening to me, they were happening for me.”

Collier racked up 138 yards from scrimmage and a rushing touchdown in the Celebration Bowl victory. He rushed for 709 yards and seven touchdowns in ten games this season.

“I would say I am the same player. I’m a little bit bigger now, about 25 pounds bigger. Really I am just the same player, humble and determined and doing whatever it is to help the team out.”

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