Collin Pittman put on a brave face to face dueling divas Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj when he auditioned for the new season of "American Idol," whose premiere continues tonight on Fox.
But he had to put on a much braver face before sweating it out for "Idol."
The aspiring singer had to stare down a colon cancer scare.
Doctors discovered he had a serrated adenoma, or a lesion, that was not malignant.
"We were so thankful," said his mom, Angie.
That cancer scare made Collin's latest accomplishment even sweeter.
The 2006 graduate of Rider High School made it to the 2012 Los Angeles auditions of "American Idol," though he cannot reveal how far he might have advanced in the competition.
Collin got the "Idol" audition thanks to his parents.
This year, potential contestants could be nominated online instead of trying to get an audition in front of the "Idol" judges the traditional way, which involves mass audition calls and pre-auditions at stadium-sized venues.
"He had just sang the national anthem at a football game in Abilene," said Angie, and so she and her husband, Dik, both nominated their son and uploaded videos of him singing.
"My husband said that night (of the national anthem), a military guy walked up to him and said he has heard the national anthem sung many times. He said only twice has he gotten goose bumps and that (Collin's rendition) was the second time."
Both Angie and Dik received emails from the show that they wanted to hear more, and so they put another video on YouTube exclusively for "American Idol" producers to watch. They watched it about 130 times, Angie said, and soon Collin was auditioning in front of judges Carey, Minaj, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson.
"It was pretty stressful because everyone else had a lot longer to get ready for it. I was called three weeks before the audition."
Collin sang Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," the same song he had sung in one of the videos his parents sent to producers that helped get him the audition.
Unlike the drama that plays out on "American Idol" during the stressful Hollywood rounds, when the final cuts are made, Collin said he didn't experience much of that drama.
"That's kind of what I thought would happen, but when I got there, it was almost the complete opposite."
Everyone he met, he said, was supportive.
Collin, a recent graduate of Abilene Christian University with a marketing degree, spent his high school days as a running back at Rider. But he also sang in choir.
"He was one of two football players at Rider in Rider a cappella," Angie said. "He had always loved singing, but we had never really heard him singing a song."
She said one Christmas she told him, "If you really want to give me a Christmas present, make me a CD, and so that year, he gave us a CD at Christmas and even got our daughter to do it with him. … The first song came up and I burst into tears."
She said it was the first time she realized her son had this unbelievable talent for singing.
Besides singing the national anthem at a football game, Collin also has sung for retirement homes, a wedding anniversary, at Hospice and at Monks Coffee Shop in Abilene.
Collin said he likes to sing a lot of different genres, like pop and R&B, but the "American Idol" producers saw him as a Christian artist.
He added he doesn't know how much of him they will show on "American Idol" during these first few audition shows, whether he'll be featured or just perhaps appear alongside a slew of other fellow competitors. He guesses if he is featured, it won't be until a couple of weeks after this week's shows.
"That's why I've been watching the commercials to see if I get on there," said Collin, who before "Idol" was in the midst of looking for a job back home in Wichita Falls. His parents are in Abilene, where they operate a Taco Casa, though his dad still works as a pharmaceutical representative in Wichita Falls and they spend a lot of time here.
Collin said "Idol" has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"It really was a great learning experience. It taught me a lot about who I wanted to be."