For Colts Wide Receiver Austin Collie, Improvement Always the Goal
INDIANAPOLIS – The formula isn't complicated. But neither is it easy.
Because as Colts second-year wide receiver Austin Collie sees it, whatever impact he has made in a little more than one NFL season has been made by being dedicated, focused and diligent. And not just during the season, but out of season, too.
Now, Collie said, is no time to change.
Collie, who has led the Colts in receiving in two of the first three weeks of the season, has been the focus of a lot of media attention in recent days following a 12-reception performance against the Broncos. But he said there's little new about his story.
"I just think you keep working hard," Collie said this week as the Colts (2-1) prepared to play the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
For Collie, that has never been an issue.
And that approach is something that Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said has been evident long before he caught 27 passes for 359 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games this season.
"He's one of those guys that you could see it when he walked in the door," Caldwell said. "He was intent on learning and not in a superficial way. He really works at improving his craft."
A fourth-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft from Brigham Young, Collie worked his way quickly into a spot in the Colts' receiver rotation last season, and after an early-season injury to Anthony Gonzalez, he spent his rookie season as one of the Colts' top three receivers.
Collie last season caught 60 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season, then turned a more productive post-season, catching 17 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. His average of 14.1 yards per reception led all Colts receivers in the post-season.
A major part of working hard, Collie said this week, is getting in sync with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. He and Gonzalez each spent time with Manning in Tennessee late in the off-season, working on timing, and Collie said any time spent with the four-time Associated Press National Football League Most Valuable Player is . . . well, valuable.
"I think the time spent (with Manning) last season as well this season – just watching film together – is a chance to kind of get in his head a little bit – to get on the same page as him and kind of get his thought process on each play," Collie said.
Caldwell said that's just part of Collie's approach, and that that approach is something Collie does naturally.
"He's really trying to find ways of earnestly getting better," Caldwell said. "He's not doing it to impress you or me or anybody else. It's innate within him. He's one of those guys that instinctively just has a burning desire to get better, and that's what I think more so than anything else that jumps out about him.
"He stays around and works on his catches and stays after and is always catching the ball. He would be your proverbial gym rat if we were talking about basketball, but in this particular case he is always in the complex trying to find ways to get a little better."
Caldwell said Collie's improvement can be seen in all phases of his play.
"We can see him progressing in terms of his route-running, certainly his ability to catch the ball consistently, all of those things are there," Caldwell said. "He continues to improve upon his run-blocking and his knowledge of our offense and how we operate, but also the unique thing is it is one season for him and three games, and he has to prove it every week. So he has another challenge ahead of him."
Collie said much of his improvement has to do with knowing the offense better than last year, as well as being more comfortable in his second year with the organization. A year ago, he said, much of his time was spent learning the offense, and as a result, sometimes thinking took priority over playing. Having to think less has made his play more instinctive, he said.
And while Collie's statistics through three games are far beyond those he registered as a rookie, he said statistics aren't his objective or motivation. With a team such as the Colts, a team with Pro Bowl selections at every skill position, Collie said using statistics as goals is pointless.
"Every week is a new week," he said. "You never know what's going to happen. We have so many talented guys – (Pro Bowl tight end) Dallas (Clark) or (four-time Pro Bowl selection) Reggie (Wayne) – it's going to be different every week. When you have guys who are so talented like Reg and Dal, obviously they're going to attract a lot of attention. Obviously, they did this last week.
"Fortunately, I was the beneficiary of that and I was able to make some plays."
As such, while Collie hasn't been thinking about numbers, he nonetheless has compiled some historical ones in three games. Not only does he lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns after three weeks, on Sunday he became the fifth player in Colts history to score a touchdown in each of the first three games of the season, joining Marvin Harrison, Lenny Moore, Raymond Berry and Jim Mutscheller.
"It's an honor to be on a list like that, but right now, I'm not concerned about that," Collie said. "I'm just working on moving onto next week and getting better this week."