Doug Robinson: Collie is BYU's first wide receiver to make a big impact in the NFL
Doug Pensinger, Getty Images
Austin Collie, the former BYU wide receiver now playing for the Indianapolis Colts, is quickly becoming a star in the National Football League.
In just his second NFL season, he leads the league in receptions (27), receiving yards (359) and touchdown catches (4). Collie seemed to put an exclamation point on his arrival Sunday when he caught 12 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns to help the Colts defeat the Denver Broncos.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of the story is this: He is the first BYU wide receiver ever to make his mark in the NFL.
BYU is legendary for producing NFL quarterbacks and prolific pass offenses for almost four decades. And yet no BYU wide receiver has done much more than win an NFL roster spot for a year or two, if that.
With some irony, the Cougars, who practically invented the college passing game, have produced NFL standouts at linebacker (Todd Shell, Kurt Gouveia, Rob Norris, Leon White), safety (Tom Holmoe), defensive and offensive line (Bart Oates, John Tait, Brett Keisel), running back (Bill Ring), tight end (Chad Lewis, Itula Mili, Todd Christensen) and of course quarterback (Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer), but never a wide receiver.
Until now. After just 19 regular-season games, Collie already has caught more passes in his NFL career than the rest of BYU's wide receivers combined, by a mile. His totals: 87 catches, 1,035 yards, 11 touchdowns.
Todd Watkins, a fourth-round draft pick in 2006, had 8 catches in two NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
Mark Bellini, a seventh-round pick in 1987, caught 10 passes in two seasons with the Colts.
Danny Plater, McMahon's favorite target, was a fourth-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 1982, but he had to quit the game because of health issues before he ever caught an NFL pass.
Similarly, Lloyd Jones was an eighth-round pick of the New York Jets in 1981, but didn't make the team.
Phil Odle, a fifth-round pick in 1968, caught 8 passes in three seasons with the Detroit Lions.
Glen Kozlowski, chosen in the 11th round of the 1986 draft, had the longest NFL career of any BYU wide receiver, but he endured only because of his aggressive special teams play. He had just 31 catches and 3 touchdowns in six seasons with the Chicago Bears. If not for college knee injuries, he might have fared better as a wideout.
That's pretty much the history of BYU wide receivers in the NFL. Jay Miller caught 100 passes during the 1973 season, 22 of them in a single game, and he didn't even get drafted.
Ben Cahoon had to go to the Canadian Football League to find a job in football. Now 38, he made his 1,000th career reception last week, leaving him six shy of becoming the CFL's all-time career reception leader. Only seven NFL players have surpassed 1,000 catches in a career. But Cahoon had to, in his words, "beg" for a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (he also had to walk on at Ricks College and BYU).
Like so many of the others, he couldn't make an NFL roster.
"Just lack of great speed," says former BYU head coach LaVell Edwards, explaining BYU's dearth of NFL receivers. "That's who the NFL chooses. When it comes to running routes and catching the ball, our guys have been as good as any. We've just never had any burners."
Actually, there was one. Golden Richards, a graduate of Salt Lake's Granite High, was a second-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1973 and went on to catch 122 passes in 8 NFL seasons, but he can't really be considered a BYU product. He transferred to the University of Hawaii after his freshman season.
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