Catching up on Notre Dame grad Jac Collinsworth's rising star

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Jac Collinsworth admits he has the kind of golf handicap you’d rather mumble or whisper than incessantly bore your friends with on Facebook.

Same goes for recent golf partner DeShone Kizer, the former Notre Dame quarterback dealt last month to the Green Bay Packers from the winless Cleveland Browns.

But there was Collinsworth last week, a May Notre Dame graduate, with Kizer in Los Angeles, teaming up to challenge Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles and Michigan’s starting QB early last season, Wilton Speight, on the golf course in a match in which the golfers with Irish connections were decided underdogs.

“It was close and we were behind, but we never got a chance to finish things,” Collinsworth said in a recent phone interview, “because the sun set before we could play holes 17 and 18.”

It might be the first time the sun set on anything involving Collinsworth in quite a while. His life moves too fast. His star is too ascending.

At age 23, the youngest of four children of former NFL wide receiver and current TV NFL analyst Cris Collinsworth has already amassed a considerable and enviable broadcasting résumé, much of which is currently happening — simultaneously.

Last fall, he joined the ESPN long-time staple Sunday NFL Countdown as a features reporter. This offseason he’s taken some turns hosting ESPN’s NFL Live. And on top of all that, he co-hosts a daily sports radio talk show with Chris Spatola, ACC Today, on the new SiriusXM ACC channel (371), from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (EDT).

“If I live anywhere, it’s on the road,” Collinsworth said. “We travel about once a week, so I’m in constant motion.”

Last week, his features assignments took him to Los Angeles, where he reunited with both older brother Austin — a former Notre Dame starting safety — and good friend Kizer.

The three, in fact, together watched Notre Dame women’s basketball team’s national championship victory over Mississippi State on the night of April 1.

“We were cheering our (butts) off when Arike’s shot went in,” Collinsworth said of Irish junior guard Arike Ogunbowale. “That, and her shot against UConn will go down in the history books as the most clutch back-to-back shots in tournament history. Not women’s tournament history. History period.

“Somebody will be talking about this in 3018. I love the fact it was talked about everywhere. This is the moment that stole the internet, stole TV. And it was because of Arike and (coach) Muffet McGraw and that team.”

Kizer, meanwhile, was in the Los Angeles area working with Tom House’s 3DQB private tutoring group, the same outfit with which current Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush spent his spring break retooling his passing mechanics and footwork.

“I think DeShone really wanted it to work in Cleveland and was convinced it would,” Collinsworth said of the 2017 second-round draft choice, shipped to Green Bay in March for defensive back Damarious Randall, a former first-rounder.

“But to have (15) games of game experience — even though things didn’t go great — and now have the opportunity to be Aaron Rodgers’ backup, I don’t think it gets any better than that.

“Now he’s got to go earn it, but it’s such a great opportunity to sit in that quarterback room with Aaron Rodgers and learn the tricks of the trade.

“DeShone is working out every single day, and he said he’s never thrown it better than he’s throwing it right now. So we’ll see. Preseason will be here before we know it, and that’s money time for him.”

The 26-year-old Austin Collinsworth has settled into a career as a venture capitalist, roughly a little more than three years after his injury-filled college football career ended.

He’s the director of development for Xsolla Capital in the greater L.A. area.

“It’s his job to recruit, research and raise money for video games,” Jac said. “It sort of fits his personality and football interests, which has been great for him.”

So has getting away from the physical pounding of football, which was especially debilitating on Austin’s back.

“He talked to a million and one doctors, and nothing worked,” Jac said. “He had surgeries, and nothing really worked. So he combined everything he heard and everything he read about how to fix his back.

“What worked for him was like a year-long process where he just built and built and built muscle. He looks like he has a six-pack growing out of his spine.

“I watch him walk, and it’s still not to the point where he’s running around playing football or basketball or anything like that, but he is feeling and living great as a result. And I couldn’t be any happier to see it.”

A back injury during Jac’s own football career, at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Ky., accelerated his prodigy status on the broadcast track and ended the possibility of becoming a “preferred” walk-on wide receiver for Notre Dame.

“I’m good now, but I had those stress fracture things in my back,” he said. “I was growing too fast and lifting. It wasn’t a good combination.”

Highlands had state-of-the-art broadcast facilities, a rarity at a high school, and Collinsworth took full advantage, first making videos, then editing, then producing, then being a cameraman.

“I fell in love with the idea of being a cameraman,” he said. “But one day they wanted everyone to try to be in front of the camera on a live show in front of 1,000 of my peers, and I remember wanting no part of that.

“That was the first time I got the ‘I want to throw up feeling’ in this business. And it was nice to get it out of the way in high school. That’s a unique opportunity. For most people, it doesn’t happen until much later in life.”

Where all this is headed for Collinsworth, he has trouble envisioning, so he’s just going to enjoy the ride.

“My dad asks me that question all the time, but it’s a difficult answer, because the business is evolving so fast,” he said. “Who knows what this business is going to look like in five years? So I just try to live my life a quarter-mile at a time, six months at a time.

“What I do know is I could work at ESPN forever. I just love the people I’m working with there. My boss (ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman) has been just an incredible mentor for me and just stuck his neck out for me. There’s no way a 22-, 23-year-old should be getting these kinds of opportunities.

“But I have, because he was willing to take that chance. Hopefully, it’s worked out.”

Samantha Ponder and Jac Collinsworth chat on the set of ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. (Photo courtesy of ESPN Images/JOE FARAONI)