After college, he was a first-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in 1995, the fifth player selected overall.
Collins, 45, played 17 seasons in the NFL with six teams, and led the New York Giants to Super Bowl XXXV at the end of the 2000 season.
Collins set program records that season for passing yards (2,679), total offense (2,660 yards), completions (176), completion percentage (66.7), yards per attempt (10.15), and passing efficiency.
Collins capped the season by being named a consensus first-team all-American.
In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr.
Hate Crimes Prevention Act (commonly the "Matthew Shepard Act" or "Shepard/Byrd Act" for short), and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.
He won the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best player and the Davey O’Brien Award for best quarterback, and finished fourth in the balloting for the Heisman.
In his career, Collins ranks eighth on Penn State’s all-time list with 5,304 passing yards and 39 touchdowns, fourth with a 56.3 percent rate of completions, and fifth in passing efficiency.
“But I did realize that some of the people who did the voting did exactly what I did, you get the list, you look through the list and look for who you remember …
as time went on you think maybe I wont get in because people don’t remember as well.” Collins, of West Lawn, Pa., was the record-setting quarterback of Penn State’s undefeated 1994 Rose Bowl-championship team.
Since he played at a time when Temple games weren’t televised the way they are today, Palmer believes not enough people saw him perform.
“I think that if the people looked at the numbers, that they speak for themselves,” he said.
Significant media coverage was given to the killing and to what role Shepard's sexual orientation played as a motive in the commission of the crime.