Having grown up in Charlotte in the 1990s, Omari Collins wasn’t a big football fan, much less a fan of the Carolina Panthers.
“The Panthers had a lot of highs and lows,” he said.” When Cam [Newton] got there in 2011, that’s when our fan base really started to grow and I became a fan after then.”
Little did he know, five years later, he would become Newton’s personal videographer and photographer, kickstarting a career as a content creator in the NFL.
Now, as senior manager of digital video for the Carolina Panthers, he is looking forward to the next chapter of his journey.
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A growing interest
Collins, 29, was inspired to enroll at North Carolina Central University by his late grandmother who earned two degrees there. At NCCU, study English language and literature and was very involved on campus.
He served on the Royal Court for three years, becoming Mr. NCCU his senior year and was active in several organizations, including Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the Centennial Scholars Program.
Collins said he’s proud of all his accomplishments, but it was one project, Eagle Access, that sparked his passion for videography and photography.
Eagle Access, NCCU’s first student-led web series, was initially an idea he pitched to his mentor, Chioke Brown, the campus photographer. Collins told him that he wanted to just host the show, but Brown encouraged him to learn how to film and edit segments as well.
“He said ‘you should learn how to do everything just in case someone doesn’t show and that won’t stop the show’,” he said. “I was a little reluctant, but I began to learn how to shoot and edit.”
Collins said he spent long hours in the school’s public relations office trying to get better at the craft.
One of his first projects with Eagle Access was a documentary focused on the NCCU men’s basketball team’s journey to the NCAA tournament.
“From that point, I fell in love with the ability to tell a story visually.”
Collins interviewed students and faculty members at the school and even celebrities when they would visit campus.
After graduating in 2016, he had plans to pursue a master’s degree in media arts from Temple University, but he changed his mind after spending that summer in Atlanta.
“I was working on different film sets and I realized that I didn’t want to go back to college,” he said.
He started his own media company called OG Collins Media.
Connecting with Cam Newton
In 2017, Collins’ close friend, Austin Duke, a football player at UNC Charlotte, went undrafted and signed with the Panthers.
Collins decided to produce a documentary on Duke’s journey. The Panthers saw the video and reached out through Instagram.
“I thought it was like a fluke,” he said. “ When I saw they were verified, I realized it was the real Panthers page.”
The Panthers brought on Collins to shoot at training camp, where he met Cam Newton.
Newton was impressed with Collins’ work and asked him to join his new production company, Iconic Saga.
Collins became Newton’s personal videographer and photographer, capturing both his football and at-home life.
He has captured some of Newton’s highest moments on the field and lowest moments off of it.
Newton uses the content that Collins shoots to post through Iconic Saga and his personal social media accounts.
Collins said he has lived with Newton in his home for a period of time.
”It’s a level of trust that they gotta have with you to allow you in their circle,” he said. “It’s a level of trust you don’t take lightly.”
The two have traveled together to events around the world including the Met Gala and Fashion Week in Milan.
Collins said the two have grown closer through their time spent together. He recently invited the quarterback to NCCU’s homecoming on his homecoming tour.
In 2019, Collins joined NFL Live as a content correspondent, shooting at league games and events across the country.
Collins continued to work with the Panthers occasionally, but after Newton was released from the team in 2020 and signed with the New England Patriots, Collins followed him.
Return to Charlotte
Collins said once Newton left, he wasn’t in Charlotte as much, but in 2021, things changed.
The content creator said Newton was potentially resigning with the Panthers and told him the day prior to the signing to fly back to Charlotte to document the moment.
He said it was “surreal” walking out of the tunnel of Bank of America Stadium with Newton for the first time since 2019.
“For me, to be back home where it all started, it was a great feeling,” he said.
While Newton didn’t resign with team during the offseason, Collins decided to stay in Charlotte.
In September, Collins became senior manager of digital video for the Carolina Panthers.
The decision, he said, was made with his family in mind.
“I needed to be at home at this time,” he said. “I feel like it was the right time for me to be here at this moment just for my career.”
Collins still works with Newton and has a close bond with the former NFL quarterback.
Collins said he has aspirations beyond the NFL; he has an interest in fashion and eventually wants to get back in front of the camera.
For now, he is appreciative of his journey and is excited for what’s next.
“I’ve been able to have my work seen by millions,” he said. “I’ve been able to meet so many influential people and it has really helped change my life and propel my future.”