BLOOMINGTON — Chris Collins knew how much work it took coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee two years ago.

When the same thing happened late last season — to the same knee — no one would have blamed the Illinois Wesleyan guard for feeling sorry for himself and maybe even giving up football.  

"That one was tough to deal with because you did so much to get back and it happens again," he said. "I was upset for a while, but I turned it into a motivation."

The 6-foot-2, 280-pound Collins has been a steady presence at right guard this season, helping Morgan Alexander become the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin rushing leader.

The No. 11-ranked Titans (5-1, 3-1 CCIW) face Carroll (1-4, 1-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tucci Stadium for IWU's homecoming game.

"I've given up a lot to be where I'm at," said Collins, a Hersey High School graduate. "I can be as tired as I want in a game, but I'm not going to let it affect me. I'm not going to give up on something because I know how hard I've worked just to be here."

It was during IWU's homecoming game two years ago when Collins made his first start. However, he suffered an ACL injury that day against Millikin and was finished for the season.

The rehabilitation process actually became easier for Collins when his rommate, defensive tackle Justin Krzeczkowski, suffered the same injury the following week.

"We had a pretty good rehab competition going the entire offseason," said Collins. "We don't back down from each other. That was really good and helped us both get through it."

However, Collins was on his own during this last offseason after being hurt at Carthage.

"The injury thing has been tough for him, but I could never sense he was done playing," said IWU coach Norm Eash. "He was going to finish out his career and play as a senior."

Both times when Collins was injured, it was not from getting hit but by planting his foot and the knee giving out.

"I always have to be careful of my feet placement," he said. "I want to keep my feet under me and not have my right foot reaching too far out where someone can fall on it or I plant on it." 

Mulcrone returning: IWU senior center Mike Mulcrone sat out last week's game after suffering a shoulder injury against Wheaton the previous week. Eash expects Mulcrone will play Saturday.

Junior Kyle Cook took Mulcrone's spot during the Titans' 28-10 victory at Augustana.

"Kyle is a veteran. He did a good job," said Eash. "He has good people around him. That's the key to the offensive line. They're all playing together. We did some good things."

Tight end Andrew Apel and cornerback Quintin Walters both remain out with knee injuries, as does wide receiver/punt returner Mitch Pfeiffer (concussion).

Homecoming speakers: Captains from the 1996 and 2001 IWU teams that won CCIW championships will speak to the team Friday at practice and Saturday before the game.

Senior defensive end John Nolan is eager to hear from the former players. However, the players aren't thinking about the other activities on campus this week.

"There's always distractions because of homecoming. But it is what you make of it," said Nolan. "Football is the most important thing right now. We really have to focus on this game and what's at hand."

Wayne Messmer, a 1972 IWU graduate, will sign the national anthem at Saturday's game. Messmer is a former Chicago Cubs public address announcer who still sings the national anthem before many Cubs games.

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson

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Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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