College football is changing. Name, Image, and Likeness regulation and the transfer portal are revolutionizing the game. Even the world of college recruiting is changing, and Brandon Collier is at the forefront of it. Recently named one of the most influential black men in the sport, the man behind PPI Recruits is leading the biggest global invasion on America since 1815.
Brandon Collier Leading the Global Invasion of College Football
Collier is a busy man. He tells me that during the last seven years, he hasn’t taken a single day off. Even when he’s on vacation, he’s at work. Arising at 4 a.m. and often not returning to slumber until midnight, he doesn’t stop. The dedication to his craft has brought personal rewards and recent recognition.
However, he isn’t changing college football for himself. There’s something much bigger at play. Behind his hard work lies heart.
“One of the kid’s stipends that he’ll get from the school he’s at is more money than his family will make per year,” Collier explains about one of the prospects from Africa that his company — PPI Recruits — has helped place into a DI college football program.
“Knowing that I have been a part of helping feed this kid’s family, a family of six back in Africa, is something that’s special, man.”
Collier is on to something special. Whether he intended to or not at the outset, the Cleveland, Ohio native is changing the face of college football recruiting in a way not seen before.
Forget the linear youth football/high school/college football trajectory that has underpinned the journey to the pinnacle of the sport. PPI Recruits has placed four prospects into DI colleges that haven’t even played a down of the sport at an organized level. It’s almost unprecedented, and for many, unthinkable.
At the same time as ripping up the rulebook of established college recruiting, he’s changing the lives, hopes, and dreams, of young men across the globe.
Since starting PPI Recruits in 2016, Collier has helped place over 100 players from 20 countries and a variety of backgrounds and socio-economic environments to pursue their dreams of playing football at the highest level.
The ‘Why’ Behind Collier’s Recruitment Conquest
When considering the vast scale of the operation that Collier is undertaking, it’s easy to be intrigued by the “how” behind it. There’s a logistical minefield that has to be negotiated before you even consider the entrenched mentality that often prevents such development within the game of college football.
We’ll get to that because the sheer scale of what PPI Recruits is doing is too impressive to ignore. However, it’s the “why” behind Collier’s unrelenting work ethic and desire to elevate talent from outside of America into DI colleges that is truly inspiring.
“I always told myself one day, I want to be able to pay it forward. I want to be able to give back, want to show the next generation that you can be successful and be a good person.”
“You always think when you’re growing up, like, the good person finish last. But I wanted to show that I could do it the right way, and that success would still come. I’ve got the willingness to want to help people live the same dream that I did.”
Collier set up PPI Recruits in 2016. Yet, his why didn’t start there, nor did it really start in 2011, when his stature as a former college football and NFL player playing the game in Europe made him a role model and contact point for young Europeans wanting to find their way to America.
His revolution of college football began with his own football journey — his own dream. There have been many stops along the road from Collier’s hometown of Cleveland to Wiesbaden, Germany, where he resides today — when he’s not touring college football campuses or holding camps in other countries around the globe.
“It played a significant role in what I’m doing now,” Collier explains of his own football journey. “I fell in love with the recruiting process, going to a very small high school in Cleveland where not many people went to college for sports.”
“Our head coach didn’t really have an influence in the game. So, I used to pick up the phone, make my own videotapes. I enjoyed the process of it all, so it all came naturally for what I’m doing now. I took an unordinary route of getting to the NFL.”
The master of his own recruiting process, Collier was an all-conference defensive lineman under Don Brown at UMass — an FCS program at the time — who could have parlayed an outstanding freshman season into a transfer to a Power Five program if the modern transfer portal system had existed during his time with the Minutemen.
While he’s thankful for the time, memories, and friends he made while at Amherst, his play there still didn’t earn him a shot at the NFL. It wasn’t until Collier traveled to Europe that he got signed by the Philadelphia Eagles.
When his time in the “City of Brotherly Love” was at an end, a return trip across the pond facilitated a move to the CFL, but Europe would prove to be his final footballing stop. While playing the sport on foreign soil, it became apparent to Collier, and those around him, that he could help European kids fulfill their dreams.
“2011, when I first came to Europe, a lot of young kids that were like 15 or 16 were asking me if I could help get them to America. Honestly, I used to pick up the phone and call coaches and tell them I knew a kid that was pretty talented. I didn’t take it too seriously, but I really enjoyed trying to help those guys, even at that age, even though it wasn’t successful.”
A torn ACL in 2016, as his football career appeared to be coming toward its natural conclusion, helped Collier take it significantly more seriously.
“I knew I wanted to be around football still,” Collier recalls. “I knew I’d enjoy helping people. I wanted to do something that no one had done before and really change the game of football. I had the idea, I know people think it’s unthinkable for Europeans to have a shot. That’s how it started with the first kid.”
From Humble Beginnings to Power Five Success
That first kid was Tibo Debaillie, a defensive lineman who had played a pivotal role in taking the Ostend Pirates to a Belgian Championship. Collier helped the 6’2″, 285-pound Belgian get into Towson University, where he made an immediate impact as a true freshman for the Tigers in 2017.
While admitting that he could probably have gotten Debaillie into a bigger program if he had the number and level of contacts that he has now at the time, getting buy-in from college football coaches at the outset was difficult.
“It was a challenge at the beginning to get people to understand that there’s talent outside of the United States of America. If you asked a college coach about someone playing in Germany or Austria, they would have thought you were crazy.
“I was so focused that every ‘no’ that I got made me go even harder to make sure these same coaches that were laughing would be calling me eventually.”
A combination of determination and success allowed PPI Recruits to grow exponentially over the next seven years. Rather than picking up the phone to FCS programs, Collier is ringing the likes of Deion Sanders, James Franklin, and Jim Harbaugh and placing global players into some of the top college football programs.
They’re not there to make up the numbers, either. There’s an ever-growing list of success stories, including multiple prospects to watch out for in the 2023 college football season and beyond.
“[Seydou] Traore, from London, he’ll be a huge success story,” Collier tells me. “He’s got NFL written all over him. We’ve got a kid at Ohio State, Hero Kanu, a defensive tackle who’s about to have a breakthrough year. Got a kid out of Texas A&M, Theo Melin [Öhrström], I’m expecting huge things from him.
“Not to mention a true freshman that’s coming to Michigan, Aymeric Koumba, a defensive end out of the south of France. He’s going to be a special player, man. I could name 20 more that are going to make an impact.”
Collier Takes a Hands-on Approach to PPI Recruits
It’s nearly midnight in Germany when Collier, proudly sporting a PPI recruits t-shirt, sits down to talk with Pro Football Network. In four hours, he’ll be awake again, and the process of elevating, promoting, and placing football talent from outside of the usual realms of college football recruiting will begin again.
With the scale of the success, it’s easy to imagine that PPI Recruits has a team of scouts, an array of admin and clerical staff, and an army of logistical organizers. However, Collier is firmly at the wheel of this global invasion of college football.
He’s the “Ambassador” by name, but the former UMass talent is very much more than just the face of the organization. Collier oversees everything. As he remarks, “If I’m going to put my name on the line with these top coaches, I’d rather work harder and keep my name and faith as clean as I need it to be.”
The journey from outside of America to inside the walls of a college football program begins with what Collier calls “ID camps.” There, PPI Recruits ascertain whether a player has the measurables, athletic traits, character, and academic capability — “the whole package” as he refers to it — to play in college.
“The guys that have that, we invite to the Dreamchasers Tour. Not only do we invite them to the tour, but I start picking up the phone and calling the coaches that I have a relationship with and say ‘look at this kid, look at this kid.’ Our success rates on these tours is extremely high.”
Collier took 11 kids on the inaugural “Dreamchasers Tour.” He puts the number at over 150 for the most recent. While there’s an itinerary and pre-planned destinations, it’s a testament to the work ethic and dedication to doing what’s best for these kids, that Collier won’t think anything of a 17-hour drive deviation if a college has an interest in working out a particular prospect.
If college football coaches were laughing at him seven years ago, the joke is on them. Collier’s eye for talent is trusted, and his opinion on the prospects that he brings from all over the world is respected, to the point that he’s completely changed the game in college football recruiting.
“They trust my word on measurements, on actual ability, so much that they’re willing to invest a scholarship in a kid they’ve never seen before. I wasn’t there seven years ago. But now, I feel comfortable calling James Franklin and Deion Sanders and telling them to offer a kid a scholarship and the chances are high that they’ll listen.”
Collier’s Influence on College Football
His impact on the college football world has been so profound that Sports Illustrated recently named him the fifth-most influential black figure in college football.
Collier describes himself as “speechless” to be named alongside figures such as Penn State’s Franklin, Maryland head coach Mike Locksley, and Colorado head coach Sanders who “was a big influence on me growing up.”
Once again, he hopes his experience and platform can be useful for the fulfillment of other people’s dreams.
“In power positions, there’s not too many black folks. It’s important that black athletes understand that they can be in the power positions one day. Not only be past players but also be owners and coaches one day.”
As he prepares to embark on the latest “Dreamchasers Tour,” it would be easy for Collier to reflect on his success and bask in the reflective glow of a job well done. PPI Recruits has changed the game in college football recruiting. He has achieved the unthinkable.
Even as he earns international recognition for his work, Collier wants to remain humble. He dreams of setting up a non-profit to pour resources into some of the countries where he’s discovered talent so far. The work isn’t done. The goals aren’t all achieved.
“How can I make it to where I can sit and smile?” Collier summarises what ultimate success would look like. “When I know that I did everything that I can for every continent in the world, that I discovered and helped someone from every continent.”
The overseas invasion of college football isn’t truly global … yet.