"I had seen something out of the corner of my eye and I thought it was a baby," Collins told 11Alive. "I just stopped and there was a baby … almost in the highway."
Collins immediately stopped, scooped the infant into his arms and called 911 to report the discovery. "I've been in a lot of bad situations," he said. "But I've never seen that."
The repairman had to wait two hours for emergency personnel to make their way down Highway 72, so he soothed the crying 15-month-old the best way he knew how: with gospel music. "I turned my phone on and let her listen to some music and she calmed right down," he said. "I know gospel music calms me down."
Madison County Sheriff Kip Thomas says the little girl crawled 300 yards – almost a quarter mile – through the woods and onto the shoulder of the road. "Honestly that's almost a miracle: that a 15-month-old can go that far from her house, into the woods, fall down an embankment, wind up near a major highway and really not get hurt that bad," he said.
The girl's father, Timothy Pickens, has been arrested and her mother may face charges as well.
As for Collins, he's just happy that he had the opportunity to be in the right place to perhaps save this little girl's life. He told 11Alive reporter Matt Pearl that he spent 10 years in prison for cocaine manufacturing, but has been out – and drug-free – for the past five years. "It made me feel good that I could be in society and do good," he said. "Just as well as you can do bad, you can do good, you know?"