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Jags' Collier shot, has life-threatening injuries
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Richard Collier has faced some adversity in recent years.
He didn't have the grades or test scores to attend most universities, so he had to work his way through junior college. He didn't have the exposure to get selected in the NFL draft, so he had to make the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted rookie free agent.
He didn't have the chance to start early in his career, so he had to do anything and everything he could to make his coaches take notice.
Now, Collier is facing his most difficult challenge yet.
The 26-year-old offensive tackle was shot outside an apartment building early Tuesday, leaving him fighting for his life and prompting family, friends, teammates, coaches, fans and police to start searching for answers.
"The guys are in shock," Pro Bowl running back Fred Taylor said. "You see this kind of thing happen all the time on TV, but you never expect it in your own back yard. He's a good dude. I just pray for him and his family and wish the best for them. I'm sure he'll pull through."
Collier and former teammate Kenneth Pettway were waiting in a Cadillac Escalade for two women they had met at a nightclub when a gunman fired into the vehicle, said Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman Ken Jefferson. Collier was shot several times, but it was unclear where the 6-foot-7, 345-pound linemen was hit.
Pettway, who was released in final cuts Saturday, was not injured.
Collier was in critical, but stable condition following surgery at Shands Jacksonville Medical Center. Later, the hospital said it would no longer give updates on his condition. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said Collier's family had requested privacy.
Several players, including running back Maurice Jones-Drew, offensive tackle Khalif Barnes and linebackers Mike Peterson and Clint Ingram gathered at the hospital. Others convened at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, all of them concerned about their teammate and friend.
Del Rio said the entire organization paused Tuesday, taking a break from game-planning for the season opener at Tennessee to focus on what he called "a very unfortunate incident, really, really a shame."
"Right now, he's battling for his life," Del Rio said on his weekly radio show. "All we can do right now is pray for healing. We have no control over that situation other than saying some prayers.
"This is not about football. This is about life. This is about a man right now dealing with his body being put to the test, whether or not he can overcome these types of things. When you're in critical condition in the hospital, it's very, very serious. and that's what this is."
The motive behind the attack was unknown, and the sheriff's office was investigating.
The shooting happened around 2:45 a.m. in a middle- to upper middle-class neighborhood just west of downtown Jacksonville and blocks from the St. Johns River. The players had gone to the apartment complex so the women could drop off their car, authorities said.
The women, who appeared to be in their 20s, declined comment when they were escorted by police back to the complex midmorning Tuesday. One was wearing a short, silver dress and the other was wearing a short, black one.
Del Rio sent a strong message to anyone questioning whether Collier should have been out that late.
"The guy who shot the gun is the problem, not the guy who got shot," the coach said. "He's the victim. He was victimized. You ought to be able to go out and have a good time and go back home and not be worried about being killed or being put in the hospital with bullet holes."
Del Rio also cautioned everyone from lumping the shooting in with all the other off-the-field problems the Jaguars have dealt with the last two years. The team has had 11 players arrested in that span, including receiver Matt Jones on a felony drug charge and several others - including Collier - on drunk driving charges.
"I take offense to people that insinuate and call that a lack of discipline or a lack of responsibility," Del Rio said. "There are no rules about being out on a Monday night before your day off the following day. ... This is a disciplined football team.
"This is a big blow, but let's not put the blame on the wrong person or the wrong situation. The person that pulled the trigger is the person that's wrong."
Collier is the third NFL player to be shot in the past 18 months. Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor was fatally shot during what police said was a botched burglary attempt at his Miami-area home in November. Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed when his rented limousine was sprayed with bullets minutes after leaving a New Year's party at a club in 2007.

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