AN IRISH dancing school in Florida has paid tribute to Alex Collins after the former NFL star died in a traffic collision at the weekend.
Collins, 28, was pronounced dead at the scene after the motorcycle he was riding collided with an SUV in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida on Sunday.
The former running back from Fort Lauderdale previously revealed how he used Irish dance to improve his strength and rhythm.
On Tuesday, the Drake School of Irish Dance in South Florida said Collins would be 'missed beyond measure'.
“He was a great guy.”
Head coach John Harbaugh opens his presser with heartfelt words regarding the passing of Alex Collins: pic.twitter.com/h14NgLXUmx
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 15, 2023
Collins had two spells with the Seattle Seahawks in between a successful two years with the Baltimore Ravens.
It was following his phenomenal start to the 2017 season with the Ravens that Collins revealed he had been dancing since 2011.
He was first challenged to give it a go by Bryanne Gatewood, the daughter of his high school football coach Doug Greenwood, after the footballer claimed that Irish dancing wasn't a sport.
At the height of his NFL success, he visited Dublin in March 2018, where he also sampled hurling and football as well as honing his dancing skills.
'In the studio, he was one of them'
In their tribute to the star they nicknamed 'Mitch Finn', the Drake School said that after his first session, 'Alex fell in love with Irish dance and we fell in love with Alex'.
"To know Alex Collins was to love him," read a statement from the school.
"His journey with Drake Irish Dance began with him teasing his sister and some of her dance friends that it wasn't a sport.
"Tasked with picking Bryanne up from class one night, he accepted a challenge from us to come to training with our champs the very next day.
"An hour into the workout, sweating profusely but with a smile on his face, Alex fell in love with Irish dance and we fell in love with Alex.
"He incorporated Irish dance into his conditioning routine, while contemplating whether he was going to declare for the NFL Draft.
"In the world of football, Alex was in the spotlight; in the studio he was determined to learn and [was] an amazing cheerleader for my dancers.
"He was one of them, offering encouragement, motivation, empathy and silliness.
"Our 'Mitch Finn' found ways to make us all laugh hard, while simultaneously nurturing us to all be better.
"He set an example to never give up, always push yourself no matter the obstacle and to enjoy every precious moment.
'Made us so proud'
"After Alex was drafted to the Seattle Seahawks, he continued dancing to help with his footwork.
"He wasn't afraid to be different and to jig in the end-zone to celebrate a touchdown.
"Alex made us so proud as he became an ambassador for Irish dance around the world, yet always made time to come back home to support our Irish dance community and his Drake family.
"He never admitted out loud that Irish dancing is a sport, but his dedication to it showed us his real feelings.
"We will cherish our memories of Alex and he will be missed beyond measure.
"We grieve with the Gatewoods and the rest of Alex's family, and send them our deepest sympathies."
'A special joy and passion'
In the 2017 season, Collins led Baltimore with 973 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
He scored eight times the following year, often celebrating with an Irish jig.
Collins returned to the Seattle Seahawks in 2020 where he spent two seasons.
He last played for the Memphis Showboats in this year's USFL season.
Each of Collins' teams paid tribute to him, with the Ravens describing him as a 'genuinely kind person who carried a special joy and passion wherever he went'.
"May Alex always be remembered for the light and love he brought to so many people in his life," they added.
Remembering Alex Collins. 💙 pic.twitter.com/eTPile7bq1
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) August 15, 2023