INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts' offense has had many prominent performers over the past 13 seasons.
One who burst onto the scene in 2009 was wide receiver Austin Collie, who snared 60 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. He was a rookie addition who helped the team reach Super Bowl XLIV.
The Brigham Young product had anything but a sophomore slump, catching 58 passes for 649 yards and eight scores. Those totals came, however, in just nine outings because of a concussion he suffered in the eighth game at Philadelphia.
Collie was having a dominant season to that point with 44 receptions, but he was hit just prior to halftime against the Eagles and left the game. Two weeks later, Collie had five early receptions at New England before sitting out the rest of the game and on December 19 against Jacksonville, he had eight receptions for 87 yards and two scores before suffering another concussion late in the first half.
Collie was the focus of many observers as he came back in 2011. It was a significant return by a talented player and while he knew people would be worried about him, Collie focused only on the game and the performance health of his team. It was a personal triumph in a year of team adversity.
"Probably the only positive thing that came from last season was I was able to go through the games and not have any reoccurrences, not have any hiccups as far as my head goes," said Collie. "The thing that was on my mind was winning games. The last thing I wanted to think about was my head. If I thought about my head, it would affect my play."
He started five of 16 appearances without incident and had 54 receptions for 514 yards and one score. Collie did everything he could to help the Colts hit positive strides in a season that just did not add up to previous ones.
The offenses he played in during 2009 and 2010 were achieving their 12th and 13th consecutive seasons with 5,000 yards offense, while topping 400 points for the ninth and 10th times in that span. Asked how to maximize production, the to-the-point Collie needs one word to describe what every season demands from the offense.
"It's always as simple as that (execution), always. There are very few times where you are going to find something different than just executing. That's football," said Collie. "The essence is knowing the play and making sure you do your job, not turning the ball over, moving the ball down the field and converting third downs. It all comes down to execution. … Knowing your responsibility and knowing where you have to be is the most important thing."
Collie's 2011 presence bolstered the wide receivers who all fought to help the offense achieve success in a season of struggle. Former Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky started the final five games for Indianapolis, and he saw the strengths Collie possesses.
"I think Austin fits into the mold of a slot guy, but I don't want to hinder him because he's a really good receiver," said Orlovsky. "He does such a good job of working with space. When you're a guy on the outside, you don't have as much space as a guy on the inside.
"Austin is smart enough and has a good enough view for windows and leverage on defenders that he can work with space. Austin is a guy we would try to get the ball to in third-down situations just knowing that whoever matched up against him we felt good about Austin."
Orlovsky was learning the offense and finding on-field rapport with his receivers, and he could count on Collie to help him thrive.
"He's smart in how he runs his routes. Austin understands coverages. He's highly competitive. He kind of has a little chip on his shoulder," said Orlovsky. "Austin has strong hands, and he's faster and quicker than people give him credit for. He knows he's a good player. He wants the opportunity to show that."
A long-time observer of the club shared the same thumbs up approval of Collie's talents.
"The inside slot position might be Austin's most natural position. That is what he's played the most, but he is not limited to that. He can play outside. He has the speed to do so. Austin is a precise route-runner. He probably will do a little more on the outside as his career unfolds.
"You like his moxie. You like his spatial awareness. He has a real good feel for a seam to sit down in if a defender is in a zone coverage. If it's man-to-man, he has the ability to get separation from the defender. He can create a reception area.
"Austin has been productive every time he has been on the field. He will block you. When you play in the slot, you have to be physical. There will be situations when the guy lined up over you is a linebacker. You have to be physical, and Austin is a willing blocker."
Collie is a dedicated worker who attacks the game every time he hits the building. It is that dutiful approach that he believes has helped during his first three years.
"I would say the number one thing that has helped me to this point is work ethic," said Collie. "I make sure that I work as hard as possible and gain as much knowledge as I possibly can. I think that knowledge and ethic makes up for maybe the lack of speed or any weakness I have. I think work ethic is the main thing that has helped get me to where I am now."
Wide receiver Blair White joined Indianapolis for Collie's second season. He observed the example Collie set as far as practice and game preparations.
"He's very detailed. I noticed that right off the bat with him because it's so prevalent," said White. "He likes to have everything down the exact way he likes to have it. If something is a little bit off, he will get it ironed out. He's very knowledgeable, and he's been very helpful to me. He sets a good example with his approach."
Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne (75-960, 4 TDs) topped the club in receptions and yards last year. Wayne will be returning for his 12th season in Indianapolis. He has 862 receptions for 11,708 yards and 73 touchdowns, the second-leading Colts career performer in each category. Pierre Garcon (70-947, 6 TDs) and Anthony Gonzalez have left Indianapolis. Garcon signed with Washington in free agency. Gonzalez played in eight games without catching a pass and has signed with New England. White had seven outings without catching a pass before ending the season on injured reserve. The Colts also added veteran wide receiver Donnie Avery. Avery, 5-11, 184, has started 28 of 39 career games with St. Louis (2008-09) and Tennessee (2011). He originally was a second-round choice by St. Louis in 2008. Avery has 103 career receptions for 1,308 yards (12.7 avg.) and nine touchdowns, along with 14 rushes for 99 yards and one touchdown. As a rookie, he started 12 of 15 games and posted career highs in receptions (53) and reception yards (647), while adding three touchdowns. He had 47 receptions for 589 yards (12.5 avg.) and a career-high five touchdowns in 2009. Avery spent the 2011 season with Tennessee, playing in eight games and finishing with three receptions for 45 yards and one touchdown. Quan Cosby, Jeremy Ross and Jarred Fayson round out the unit.