When the opportunity to talk with a random ex-Minnesota athlete is presented, we rarely turn it down. Stalin Colinet, a 1997 third round Vikings draft pick as a defensive lineman, is retired from the NFL and out in the Boston area now with his wife and two children. He works as a financial rep at Northwestern Mutual and also works with the National Collegiate Scouting Association to advise high school athletes and their parents on the current scholarship landscape. Here is a portion of our interview with Colinet, which we enjoyed very much. The interview contains the phrase “we royally screwed that up.” There can be no doubt as to which game/season Colinet is talking about. Please also note this post will almost certainly at the top of the site until Monday morning, as we head out to Arizona in just a few hours. OK, here we go:
RandBall: So what exactly is your role with the NCSA?
Stalin Colinet: I’m an educational speaker. My role is to educate student-athletes and their families on how to navigate the recruiting process. … In my experience, the parents really don’t have any way to navigate this, and the kids have misinformation. We make sure parents are aware of the rules and NCAA guidelines. I’m a firm believer that if everyone’s on the same page, they make good decisions.
RB: What are the eye-openers for them?
SC: Kids think they can rely on their athletic ability … but if you’re just an average student, you’re going to really have to hit a home run on the SAT or ACT. And imagine if you’re a poor test-taker.
RB: What was your recruiting experience like?
SC: It was unreal. For me, growing up in New York, I started getting letters my junior year. At first, you’re very enthused because you think everyone’s recruiting you. You get a standardized letter, you think that’s full-blown recruitment, but it just means you’re on a list somewhere. Full-blown recruitment is hand-written letters, phone calls … and when I got to that point, it really intensified. It’s really overwhelming to even have 5 or 10 schools interested. You have to do what’s best for you. For me, it was going to a school with an academic foundation. … I can’t say I was a good (high school) student in the beginning. One thing that really struck me was the coach from Indiana came in and was recruiting another player and in the process started to recruit me. And he didn’t want to know my 40 time or how many tackles I had. He wanted to know my GPA. It was around 2.2, and he said, “You can’t play for me, son.” That was my ‘a-ha’ moment. And I started to turn around my academics wound up with a 3.2 by the end of my career, and that helped me get to Boston College.
RB: I read that you were the first Dominican player to be drafted and play in the NFL. I didn’t realize that – is it true?
SC: Oh yeah. I recall getting to Minnesota on draft day, and my teammate and fellow draft pick Tony Williams … he was like, “Where are you from?” … My mom is from the Dominican Republic and my dad is from Haiti. He was like, “Wow, where is that?” The island is a baseball island. We put out baseball players, just like New York is known for basketball players. There are a few of us that really gravitated toward a physical sport. I played baseball and basketball, but I felt at home on a football field. … I spent most of my summers in the Dominican, and I got to see different things. In New York, you almost get numb to other cultures, but going to Dominican really helped. People might not be wealthy in terms of dollars, but they are in terms of love. It was an eye-opener for me. Here I was in New York taking things for granted.
RB: OK, last thing. I know 1998 was your second year in the league and you were with the Vikings. Sorry to go there, but do you still think about that season and the way it ended?
SC: Mike, I do. And it breaks my heart. The better team lost that game. If we would have played 10 more times, we’d wipe the floor with them 10 times. We royally screwed that up. From the coaching staff all the way down to the players. The touchdown at end of the half switched the momentum. … The game should have never came down to a kick. That game was supposed to be a blowout. That breaks my heart. I was a game away from the Super Bowl. … Watching the (2009 NFC title game) game made me sick to my stomach. It brought up the memories. We really thought we were the better team. We started off like it, but we got complacent, and they picked up momentum. They felt like they deserved to be there, and they thought we were looking past them.