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Collie in competition for playing time

Published: Thursday, June 25 2009 12:39 a.m. MDT

On the day the Indianapolis Colts selected Austin Collie in the NFL Draft in April, it looked like a perfect fit.

A couple of months later, it looks even more so.

The Colts recently concluded off-season practices and Collie, their fourth-round pick, has made a definite impression at slot receiver.

BYU's all-time leading pass-catcher is battling Pierre Garcon, Roy Hall and John Matthews for the No. 3 receiver position behind Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez. Their battle is expected to continue when the Colts report to Terre Haute, Ind., for the start of training camp Aug. 2.

For now, Collie is taking a well-deserved vacation. He and his wife, Brooke, have found an apartment in an area in Indianapolis where they feel comfortable, said Collie's father, Scott.

Quarterback Peyton Manning, the three-time NFL MVP, and coach Jim Caldwell like what they've seen from Collie, who shined during the Colts' rookie mini-camp in May. He earned praise for running precise routes and his pass-catching abilities.

"We do feel that Austin is a young, rookie force that has done a tremendous job in learning," Caldwell told the Indianapolis Star. "He seems to be the kind of guy that catches on quickly. He has a good feel for spatial awareness. He's gotten to the point where it seems that he is starting to connect well with Peyton (Manning). I do feel that we have certainly made some ground in that area."

Collie and Manning have established a relationship on the field in recent weeks, Scott Collie told the Deseret News.

"It appears Peyton is developing a trust with Austin," he said. "There were a couple of instances where Peyton chewed on Austin pretty good. Having Peyton chew on him kind of showed that he trusted Austin, and thought he could handle it as a rookie, otherwise he wouldn't have gone at him as hard as he did. Austin learned from it."

The receiver position is undergoing something of an overhaul in Indianapolis, as Gonzalez has moved from an inside receiver spot to the outside. Meanwhile, several players are looking to fill the void left by longtime Colt wideout Marvin Harrison, who was released in February.

"Without Marvin here, it's going to be a big adjustment," Manning told colts.com. "Whether it's Roy Hall or Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie, those guys have to step up. There's some open positions out there. Every one of those guys, I've told them there is a receivers spot open right now. If you had to say today, Gonzalez goes to the right, Reggie stays to the left. That part I feel secure about.

"But there's a spot open there, either in the slot or on third down if Gonzalez or Reggie goes in the slot, somebody comes in at that right or left. All three of those guys need to be saying, 'Hey, that's my job to go win.' One thing that's always been proven around here that they will give you a chance to compete. It doesn't matter how old you are, how many years you've been in the league. If you win the job, it's yours. And that's healthy."

Many observers within the Colts' organization have compared Collie to former Indianapolis wideout Brandon Stokely. Collie has also been auditioning for kick-return units.

Scott Collie said mini-camp and offseason practices were "a great introduction to where (Austin) is and where he needs to get to. Early on, he struggled with the pressure he put on himself to understand the plays. It's a process to begin to understand the playbook and what Peyton expected. Nobody's ever questioned Austin's work ethic. It paid off. He started to play at a high level. (The Colts) started to see what kind of player they had in him."

As for what kind of impact Collie might make as a rookie, that's still up in the air.

"There's a competition that is wide open right now," Scott Collie continued. "He's competing with a couple of other guys who are good football players. From what (the Colts) have been able to see from Austin's ability to learn quick and translate into the mental part and physical ability, I think they were well-pleased with that. They've given him an opportunity to compete for playing time. If he's not playing, he won't be happy."

One of Collie's biggest obstacles is learning the Colts' playbook. He told the Indianapolis Star that he's been through difficult situations like this before, when he was trying to learn Spanish during his LDS Church mission to Argentina.

"It's going to be a lot like that with football," Collie said. "Right now, it's tough. I lose patience with myself, expecting to pick things up quickly. My brain is fried every day. But it's like going to Argentina and not speaking Spanish. I'm making mistakes right now. But I'm going to learn it."

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com

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