Stephen Collier — his football days long behind him, the ambition of striking it big in New York ahead of him — remains on the competitive fast track, and he has at least two sheets of sheepskin to prove it.

One is his bachelor's degree in communications. The other is his master's in sports management. The former quarterback earned both from Ohio State in four years.

“Not exactly how I planned it when I first showed up at Ohio State as a 17-year-old, but you’ve got to take life how it comes and make the best of your situation,” Collier said. “As someone once said, ‘You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.’ You adapt.”

Stephen Collier Sr. watched his son go from star high school quarterback to Ohio State signee, to a career-ending knee injury in 2016, to walking through two graduation ceremonies.

“From my perspective, I think the right word is proud,” Stephen Collier Sr. said. “I don’t care how well a kid can be raised, there are so many opportunities for someone to just veer off and either lose passion, or lose sight of what’s right, stumble and never really get back on track when things don’t go like you think they should. I have to say I am proud just because he always has been focused on being successful in some capacity, and most times at a very high level.

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“Just for that, my wife, Natalie, and I are super proud of him. Even without the opportunity to fully realize his hope of being a starting quarterback, he didn’t lose the other part that was important to us, ‘Hey, let’s go be successful academically.’ Because you’ve got to be ready to rock and roll when football is done, and football ends sooner or later for everybody.”

Collier was the quarterback Ohio State signed from Lee County High School in Leesburg, Georgia, in 2014 when Urban Meyer and his staff couldn’t get DeShaun Watson to change his mind on his commitment to Clemson. Collier was considered the 17th best dual-threat QB nationally in that recruiting cycle and, unlike Watson, was more of a long-term project.

The Collier project appeared to be on the upswing in the spring practices of 2016. But late in the spring game “I heard a pop (in a knee), sort of shook it off,” Collier said, “but as the days went by I could tell something was not right, but I didn’t think it was anything crazy.”

Examinations revealed the opposite. He had a torn MCL, ACL and meniscus — what he shook off at first was indeed a major injury.

“That hit me like a dang truck,” Collier said. “And after surgery, it was all about trying to get back to healthy. … But sometimes your body just doesn’t feel the same, you don’t feel comfortable doing certain things you used to do with ease without thinking about it. It just wasn’t in the cards to try to play any longer.”

He became a medical-hardship casualty, meaning he could stay on scholarship. He realized that through his first two years he had been “knocking classes out like crazy. … I enjoyed learning.

“So two years in I started thinking, ‘What’s next?’ I was on track to graduate in three. And my academic advisor at the time, Debra Sanchez, she had her master's degree at 23. I thought, ‘I could get mine by 21.’ She suggested it, and so did my really good friend at Ohio State, Dr. David Graham.”

Encouragement also came from Meyer. Their relationship had started to click in the spring of 2016. After the injury, Meyer didn’t turn his back.

“For him and athletic director Gene Smith to stick by me, that speaks so much to their character and how much they really do care about their guys,” Collier said. “As long as you do right, they will definitely do right by you. That leaves such a great taste in my mouth about my time here, my experiences.”

Now he’s poised like fellow graduates to pursue his career path, which to him means a move to New York City with the idea of working in sports marketing or public relations for a team or a company.

“I visited New York last year and fell in love with the city, the energy you feel there,” Collier said. “There are big stages in the world, and obviously Ohio State is one of those for football. And obviously in the profession I want to pursue (communications), New York is the Ohio State of cities.

“I want to go there and try to make my mark.”