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Courtesy University of Hawaii
Dylan Collie
I’m more than grateful to have been here and to have experienced Hawaii as a place and as a school for the past three years. —Dylan Collie

HONOLULU — As a youngster, Dylan Collie hung out in the BYU locker room and watched his older brothers, Zac and Austin, play for the Cougars.

He dreamed of following in their footsteps — and those of his dad, Scott, who was also a BYU wide receiver in the late 1970s and early 1980s — and he was true-blue.

“That’s all I knew as a kid,” Collie said.

When he was recruited out of El Dorado Hills (California) High, Dylan eagerly signed with the Cougars and he spent a redshirt season in Provo.

“I remember the very first time, my redshirt freshman year, before I ran out into LaVell Edwards Stadium, I went back and remembered all the times I had watched my brothers run out of that tunnel and to see the excitement and to be a part of that for a moment was absolutely incredible,” Collie recalled. “I knew I needed to be one place and one place only, and that was the Y. I loved it. I felt like I made an impact that would have set me up for a good career there. But things change, things happen, and it’s all part of the plan.”

During his LDS Church mission to Richmond, Virginia, he learned that the coaches who had recruited him to BYU, Brandon Doman and Ben Cahoon, were let go. That caused him to re-think his options.

Collie decided to get a release from BYU and eventually received an offer from then-University of Hawaii coach (and former BYU assistant coach) Norm Chow on Thanksgiving weekend in 2014.

“My sister and brother-in-law are out here in Hawaii with their family,” Collie said. “It was a place rooted in culture and is probably the next best place to be in terms of where my moral standards were and my values and where I needed to be to keep myself on the right track. It was pretty easy to commit right away and know this was the place for me.”

Collie, now a junior, joined the program in 2015 and has caught 112 passes for 1,197 yards and nine touchdowns for the Rainbow Warriors.

“There’s never a day when you question what the weather will be like,” he said about living in Hawaii. “To be around people that are constantly in the sun, it’s a happy place to be. I’m more than grateful to have been here and to have experienced Hawaii as a place and as a school for the past three years. There’s a lot of diversity here and I’ve learned a lot from the culture. Being part of the University of Hawaii football team creates a thick, thick bond that’s unbreakable.”

For Collie and his wife, Savannah (the couple was married on New Year's Eve 2015), “this is home for us. We love it here. It’s as good as it can be. I was led by the Spirit knowing I could do things elsewhere.”

This week Collie’s past and present collide as he faces his former school — and the program he idolized as a kid — when Hawaii hosts BYU Saturday (7 p.m., MST, CBSSN).

While Collie wants nothing more than to defeat the Cougars, he harbors no bitterness.

“The last thing I want people to think is that I have hard feelings toward BYU,” he said.

This certainly isn’t a situation Collie could have ever imagined.

“I’ve paved my own path here in Hawaii, in a different jersey, in a different color, with different people, but I still have some of my best friends at BYU,” he said, explaining that Cougar linebacker Morgan Unga redshirted at BYU with him in 2012 and the two served in the same mission. “Did I think when I was eight years old I would be wearing this jersey and be here at this point in this game? No. But I’m grateful for it and I can’t tell you how excited I am for this game.

"Mentally, in terms of the way I prepare, nothing will change," he continued. "I can tell you that after the game when I can think about that opportunity to play in this game and be a part of this rivalry in an aspect that was kind of unheard of to me, that will be incredible.”

In 2016, former Hawaii quarterback Nick Rolovich became the new head coach, replacing Chow. Collie has embraced the youthful exuberance Rolovich has brought to the program.

“I love Coach Chow and I respect Coach Chow. I’m grateful for the opportunity Coach Chow gave me to be here,” he said. “You learn about the culture and the foundation in football. Then to have coach Rolo step in and create a younger, exciting vibe to this area, you see the excitement of what it means to be a Hawaii football player. You see excitement in the fever that gets caught on the Island about the foundation of Warrior football. If the football team’s going, then the whole Island’s going.”

Collie, who has caught 50 passes for 533 yards and four TDs this season, understands how deeply Hawaii fans care about the rivalry with BYU.

“I’ve seen the passion of these fans. It’s a hostile place to play here, Aloha Stadium, especially when BYU comes to town,” he said. “Then being here and getting to see, especially with coach Rolovich, coach (Craig) Stutzmann and coach (Brian) Smith, guys who have experienced this rivalry in its fullest, and who hold it near and dear to their hearts, it creates a passion and a side of the rivalry that I didn’t understand until you get to know these guys.

"It’s a fiery one. It’s a big one. And now that I’ve adopted this culture, it is something that is boiling. Everyone’s happy for it to be back.”

It’s been six years since BYU played at Aloha Stadium. The Cougars defeated the Rainbow Warriors 41-20 in 2011 and fans have been talking about this upcoming showdown for a while.

“If you think about the number of members of the LDS Church here, the kids that have left the Islands to go to BYU, the members of the Church that are here, the ties and connections, everything like that, there will always be a buzz about this game,” Collie said. “No matter how far away or close the game is, there will always be a certain buzz about the BYU vs. Hawaii game. Aloha Stadium is a big stadium but I tell people don’t be surprised if it’s half-and-half with BYU fans and Hawaii fans.”

Dylan knows his family's loyalties are with him and the Rainbow Warriors. Scott will be attending Saturday’s game.

Zac lives in California while Austin — who is No. 2 all-time in career receiving yards (3,255) and No. 3 in career receptions (215) at BYU — lives in Utah.

“They’ll definitely be watching. For them, it won’t be hard to know who to cheer for. They love me enough and they’re pulling for me more than anybody,” Dylan said. “The hardest will be the contention between my nephews. I have a nephew here who is a diehard Warrior. My two nephews back in Utah, Austin’s sons, are diehard Cougar fans. It will be fun to see them and watch their competitive nature come out in this one.”

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Cougars on the air

BYU (3-9)

at Hawaii (3-8)

Saturday, 7 p.m. MST Aloha Stadium

TV: CBS Sports TV

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM