“It’s boosted my confidence so much,” Carl Tubbs, who was bullied because of his love for dance, told ABC News. “I feel like I can do anything and no one can stop me.”
Collins, a running back, began taking Irish dance lessons in 2016 to prepare for the NFL Draft, according to a report shared by the Baltimore Ravens.
He reached out to Carl, who lives in Des Moines, after seeing a tweet from the boy’s mom asking for words of encouragement for her son.
“I asked for a shout-out to cheer up Carl and give him some confidence,” Carl’s mom, Joanne Tubbs, told ABC News. “I didn’t really expect to hear back and all of a sudden my notifications were sort of blowing up.”
Just days after hearing back from Collins, Tubbs saw that the Ravens were playing within driving distance of the family’s home, in Minneapolis, on Oct. 22.
She bought tickets to the game and then heard from the Ravens and Collins’s agent, who offered Carl a chance to meet his NFL hero.
Collins, who could not be reached by ABC News, met with Carl both before and after the Ravens game against the Vikings. He also brought footballs signed by the entire Ravens team for Carl and his brother, Miles, 10.
“It was so cool,” Carl said. “If you ever get close to an NFL player, the difference between a college player and an NFL player is giant.”
He added, “Knowing that a player this good also does Irish dance is pretty inspiring.”
Collins, a South Florida native who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds, according to the NFL, was introduced to Irish dance by a daughter of his high school football coach.
Carl, who also plays baseball, was introduced to dancing by his older sister. He performs in competitions and often practices during recess at school, which he said led to bullying from other students.
"Mostly they'd just give me a hard time, saying, ‘Oh, that’s for girls,'" Carl said. "And that I wasn’t supposed to be doing Irish dance because only girls to do that."
Carl said a few of the kids who taunted him have apologized after learning of his meeting with Collins.
Asked what was the best advice he received from Collins, Carl replied, "Just keep on moving forward and they’ll learn that picking on someone is not OK and eventually it’ll get better."
Carl, whose favorite parts of Irish dancing are the "really loud" stomps and clicks, plans to keep in touch with Collins and hopefully dance with him some day.
While Carl waits for that chance, he is sticking with the dance lessons and offering advice for kids who like himself "just like doing things a little different."
"There are going to be times that are rough but just keep moving on," he said. "Find someone that you can look up to and hopefully be them someday."