Austin Collie talks NFL, Cougar football

Former BYU wide receiver Austin Collie will soon be entering his fourth year of catching passes and scoring touchdowns as an NFL wide receiver. He talks about playing in the NFL and what it was like playing with Peyton Manning. He also gives some insight into the future of BYU's wide receiver development.

Reflecting on his time at BYU, Austin Collie said one of his most memorable moments at BYU – aside from the 4th-and-18 catch he had in the 2007 come-from-behind victory against Utah – also came in 2007 thanks to a memorable blocked field goal.

"I think one of my memorable moments was winning the Las Vegas Bowl against UCLA those last seconds," said Collie. "I think that was a fun time and kind of topped off just a great year for us."

After becoming BYU's all-time leading receiver, Collie bolted for the NFL following his junior season in 2008. After once winning the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year award in 2004, Collie nearly won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2009 after catching 60 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns.

Collie said that the biggest challenge his rookie season wasn't the level of talent he faced on the field.

"Learning the entire offense and how it works and being on the same page as Peyton as quickly as you had to learn it was probably the most difficult part," he said.

In 2010, Collie suffered two concussions in two weeks. The second one came against the New England Patriots and sidelined him for the rest of the season. It was a new experience for him, as he never suffered such an injury while suited up in Cougar blue.

"The level of competition in the NFL is really good and a challenge because everyone is better, stronger, faster … Guys at that level are just as fast as you – if not faster – but bigger, so you have to really make sure you apply your technique and not cut any corners. It's very competitive."

Competitive is right. After going 16-3 in 2009 and reaching the Super Bowl, and then going 10-7 in 2010, the Colts went 2-14 in 2011 while Manning sat out all year with a neck injury. Despite not having his quarterback at the helm, Collie still recorded 54 catches for 514 total yards and scored one touchdown.

This past offseason, Manning became a member of the Denver Broncos.

"Playing with Peyton was great and a lot of fun," said Collie. "It was everything you would expect it to be. He's a hard worker and someone who pushes others to be better. He's smart and someone with a lot of ability, so when you put those two things together, it's hard to not have the type of success we've in the past. It was good playing with him."

Despite the season year last year, Collie has maintained an overall positive disposition concerning his NFL experience.

"It's been good man, and a lot of fun," said Collie. "There have been some ups and downs and last season didn't go like we wanted it to, but for the most part it's been a blast playing at that level."

If there ever was a return missionary who played at BYU and was prepared to play in the NFL, it's Austin Collie. He was made to play at the highest level of competition. But, what about the off-field influences that might not jive well with his faith?

"There is some of that kind of stuff going on," he said. "No one pressures you to do anything and I think there might be a bit of a misconception that people push you to do things you don't want to do. If you're going to make a bad decision, it's because you wanted to and not because someone else wanted you to. We have a Christian-oriented team in Indianapolis, so it was good to have that surrounded there if you're a man of faith."

Because of the way he's lived his faith, Collie has been approached by a few of his Colt teammates who've inquired about the LDS faith.

"Guys were respectful and some asked questions and wanted to know more," Collie said. "I was able to share some things about our faith in the locker room when guys would ask me and want to know more. Everybody there from the coaches to the players were pretty Christian-oriented and, like I said, it was a good opportunity to share about your faith and find out about others. It was comforting."

Meanwhile, when he's not catching passes against NFL defenses on national television, Collie returns from time to time to visit his alma mater. Last season, BYU featured a new wide receiver coach in former Cougar receiver Ben Cahoon.

"Yeah, I watched the games and saw the difference," Collie said. "You know, things aren't going to happen overnight, because it takes time, but I did see how things began to change for the better. Definitely now, you know, watching the way the players run now that Ben … has had time with these kids, you definitely can see a difference in the way they run their routes.

"You can see the little things that make a big difference. The route running improved. From the beginning of the season last year to the end of the season, you could see a definite improvement. The way the players get in and out of their breaks, you can see a difference in body language and stuff like that."

Collie has been very impressed with Cahoon.

"He's a stud, man," said Collie. "I wish he was here when I was here, and the guy knows his stuff. The guy played 11 years professionally, and so how couldn't he know his stuff? He knows the ins and outs of running routes and pays attention to detail. He knows how to catch the ball. He knows how to communicate to the guys so they can understand how to do those things. I think a lot of guys don't know how to do that because they don't have the experience. He has that experience and can relay it to the guys."

With his occasional visits to watch the Cougar receivers run through practice, Collie has no problem pointing out a few flaws or critiquing players.

"If I'm at practice and see something, I'll usually relay it to Ben and let him know," said Collie. "If I go out to practice and see something that isn't quite right with a player, or something he's doing that is wrong or not done correctly, I'll let Ben know so he can fix that.

"I was actually with Ben and sat in a meeting and went through some stuff with most of the guys. We went through film and broke down some things that I saw. It was good. It was good and I think the guys are now learning more about how to play the position and why things are done a certain way [differently] than in the past. Whenever I come back I try to get into the offices and say hi and help out when I can."

Collie feels that BYU's wide receiver corps has great potential, and that includes his freshman brother Dylan.

"It's off the charts now that [Cahoon's] here coaching," said Collie. "I mean, you have guys like Cody [Hoffman], Ross [Apo], J.D. [Falslev] and even incoming freshmen like Dylan who have all the athletic ability in the world. The difference now is you have a coach who can help develop that athletic ability and tell them what to do and how to do it. You know, someone who can take that athletic ability and train them with that coaching. I think the possibilities are endless."

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