Doug Robinson: Collie is BYU's first wide receiver to make a big impact in the NFL
"It is odd that BYU has produced a fair number of pro quarterbacks, but very few wide receivers," says Holmoe, a BYU grad and former college head coach who played safety for the great San Francisco 49er teams of the '80s and now is BYU's athletic director. "My personal opinion is that the NFL is fixated with (the) measurable, (especially for) wide receivers. First, you must be able to run FAST. From there, routes, hands, running after the catch, size, height, production, strength, blocking all seem to follow somewhere depending on the team. BYU has had few 'NFL fast' receivers."
Collie, who is 6-foot, 200 pounds with respectable 4.5 speed, is a combination of all of the above. As Cahoon says, "I don't think BYU has ever had anyone who possessed all those traits. They've had guys faster than Austin, but they were smaller. He's not a blazer, but what he does is manage his speed."
Cahoon is referring to how quickly Collie, from a dead sprint, can rev down his speed enough to make a cut. As Cahoon explains it, "On a 15-yard square-in route, for instance, it will take some guys four or five steps to slow down enough to make their plant; he can do it in two or three steps; that's a big difference."
That makes it almost impossible for defenders to cover him, especially linebackers who might be forced to cover him from his slot position. In football terms, he gets separation.
"Austin has an unusual, almost innate feel for running routes, and he's physical, like Kozlowski," says Edwards. "He's also an intelligent receiver. He pays attention to the way the defense is covering him and the way the defensive back turns his shoulders and little things like that. He can get deep on you."
After churning out a dozen receivers who had 100 or more catches in their collegiate careers, BYU finally has produced an NFL-caliber wide receiver and perhaps a future star at that.
"Unfortunately," says Bellini, "there is not a strong demand in the NFL for slow white receivers with good hands, which describes the vast majority of BYU's illustrious wideouts. That, coupled with the fact there is an element of luck involved in every player's success in the NFL, precludes opportunity for most of us. Even in Austin Collie's case — while no one can doubt his talent, he caught a hell of a break by playing with one of the greatest QBs of all time and being forced into the lineup due to injuries his rookie year. So the football bounces unpredictably."
Bellini is right. Collie has had a charmed pro career so far, getting drafted by a team that features Peyton Manning at quarterback, playing in an offensive system that seems custom-made for his skills, and seeing significant playing time as a rookie because of an injury to Anthony Gonzalez. His rookie season ended with a six-catch performance in the Super Bowl. This season, both Pierre Garcon and Gonzalez have had injuries, presenting more opportunities for Collie.
So far, he has made the most of those opportunities.
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