Colts Wide Receiver Austin Collie Expecting Improvement Entering Second NFL Season
INDIANAPOLIS – Austin Collie gets it.
Not only that, the Colts' second-year wide receiver has seen it – how second-year players in the NFL can take dramatic steps in their second seasons.
Collie, a fourth-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft from Brigham Young University, had a productive, solid season as a rookie, making a significant contribution in the regular- and post-season for a team that qualified for its second Super Bowl in four seasons.
Collie had heard about the jump second-year players can make, and he said he hoped entering the off-season it would apply to him.
Now, with the Colts' off-season nearing an end, he said he believes it will.
"Last year, there was a lot of making sure I didn't make a mistake, and making sure I didn't cause the team any errors," Collie said recently following a session of the Colts' 2010 organized team activities, four weeks of on-field, team-oriented activities scheduled to be held through June 11 at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Collie said this year the difference was noticeable. And quickly.
"This year, just by the first day, just by coming back off the off-season, you just come back a little more at home," he said. "You know all of the guys and you feel a little more comfortable with the offense and what (Colts quarterback) Peyton (Manning) wants from you."
Collie (6-feet-0, 200 pounds), who emerged quickly as a potential contributor last off-season, played in all 16 regular-season games and three post-season games, developing continuity with Manning and emerging as an integral part of the offense.
He started five games, finishing the season with 60 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns, including an eight-reception game in a key early-season victory at Tennessee when he had 97 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
As impressive as Collie was at times on the field, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said he was impressive off the field, developing into one of the Colts' hardest workers, studying film early in the morning and working to learn the offense.
"I do see him getting better," Caldwell said. "He's got the kind of work habits, and he is really diligent about everything that he does that would lead you to believe that you are going to see some improvement. There is no question about it. He is in early. He stays late. He works extremely hard."
Collie, with veteran wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez missing all but one game with a knee injury, improved throughout his rookie season, and was a key to the Colts' offense in the post-season.
He caught 17 passes for 241 yards and two post-season touchdowns, and his seven receptions for a career-high 123 yards and a touchdown helped changed the momentum in the Colts' victory over the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium in the AFC Championship Game.
It was, by any measure, a successful season, and one Collie said he took time at times to savor.
"As the moments took place, like going to the Super Bowl, it had the opunity to kind sink in there," Collie said. "It's definitely what we're shooting for this year. Hopefully, we can get back to that level."
The key to doing so, Collie said, is the off-season. The Colts typically have high attendance during OTAs, and it is there where Manning has said he often gets the majority of his timing work done with his receivers. Collie said timing is but part of his focus in the off-season, with his primary focus overall improvement of a game that can still take dramatic steps.
"It's fun to be back," he said. "It's fun to run around with the guys. I feel a lot more comfortable than last year, so that's obviously more fun. I have a lot to learn. I 'm just coming off my rookie season.
"I have a lot to learn in this offense, and a lot of things I need to work on."
But Collie said while that's true, he said it's equally true that experience from last season has helped him in the process of improving, growing and being prepared for next season. Whereas a year ago much of his time was spent learning the basics of the Colts' system, this season he said he is far more read to hone and improve more advanced skills.
"I already noticed a difference as far as my comfort level," Collie said. "This time last year, I was running around not sure what I was supposed to do. I had no idea how the route was supposed to be run or what I was supposed to do on each assignment, but this year, just being out thee, I feel 10 times more confident and more comfortable."
That comfort level, Collie said, is about more than just getting better in his second off-season. He said it's also very much about being in an organization that as a whole not only arrives to work in the off-season, but largely enjoys doing so.
"I'm closer here with the guys than I was in college," Collie said. "I'm very blessed and all of us are very blessed to be part of this organization, and to be part of such a tight team."