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Y.'s Collie: Nice catch

Receiver glad he chose Cougars over Stanford

SHARE Y.'s Collie: Nice catch

PROVO — Under different circumstances, Austin Collie would be suiting up for Stanford — rather than BYU — Saturday night when the Cougars visit the Cardinal.

A highly sought-after wide receiver in high school who earned prep All-America honors last year, Collie was recruited by nearly every Pac-10 school. He was also pursued by BYU, Utah, Colorado and UNLV. In the end, he narrowed his decision to Stanford and BYU.

Collie grew up a 90-minute drive from the Stanford campus and he spent plenty of time there while playing at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, Calif. He's very familiar with the players, the coaching staff and the program. "I used to go there every weekend," he says. "As soon as I was done with a football game, the next day I'd go over there and visit with all of the coaches."

The turning point came last November, when Collie attended Stanford's season-ending 57-7 loss to Notre Dame. "I kind of got a bad vibe from that game, the whole environment; the way they ran things," Collie recalls.

But it wasn't until about a month before last February's signing day that he settled on the Cougars.

"I think that coming here, and being the same faith as everybody, makes you feel more comfortable rather than going somewhere where your faith really isn't that known," Collie says. "Up until that month before signing day, it was tough. It involved a lot of praying and thinking about it."

The Cougars are grateful he chose Provo over Palo Alto.

In his first game as a Cougar, Collie made a big splash on national television, scoring what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown in the Cougars' 20-17 victory over Notre Dame last Saturday.

The freshman chased down and made a finger-tip grab of a Matt Berry pass, then raced into the end zone for a 42-yard TD that gave BYU a 20-3 advantage midway through the third quarter.

For Collie, simply running onto the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium earlier that night fulfilled a lifelong dream. "It was exciting coming out of that tunnel with all of the boys. It was something I had dreamed about since I was a little kid," he says. "It was a rush I had never felt before. I thought high school was big, having 5,000 or 6,000 people out there. But 65,000 is something else. You have the butterflies in your stomach, but once you get that one play out of the way, you just start playing."

Of course, Austin is not the first Collie to play at BYU. His older brother, Zac, a sophomore receiver who has been hampered by injuries, has been part of the program for a couple of years. The Collie brothers, meanwhile, come from strong Cougar stock. Their father, Scott, who was watching from the stands at Edwards Stadium last Saturday, was a Cougar receiver himself from 1979-82.

Family ties had an impact on Austin's decision to attend BYU. "The fact my dad and my brother had played here made everything more comfortable," he says.

"Zac was the biggest influence on Austin," Scott says. "Zac became BYU's biggest recruiter."

Scott Collie taught his boys everything he knew about catching the football. He learned from his BYU coaches, Norm Chow and Doug Scovil, the following mantra: "You will make the great catch all of the time and the impossible catch some of the time."

Scott drilled that philosophy into Zac and Austin. "They didn't ask me about being a receiver. I told them," he says. "And they both come from an excellent high school program. I always stressed to them that you have to catch everything. In the era I played in, BYU receivers didn't drop balls. You have to have mental toughness."

Cougar coach Gary Crowton recognized that mental toughness, not to mention other natural abilities, in Austin Collie during the recruiting process. Crowton knew that Collie could contribute right away to the program. "He was big and he could run after he had the ball," Crowton says.

As for learning the offense, Collie got an early jump on things. "The thing that helped him was that he lived with his brother and worked out with the quarterbacks all summer," Crowton says. "That gave him an inside track, which provided him the ability to play quickly."

About a week before fall camp broke, Collie was told he would start against Notre Dame. "He said he was scared to death," Scott Collie recalls. "A couple of days later, he was back to his old self-confident self. He came out on the field with a swagger. His goal was to be on the field for that first game. And he was. I've learned not to question his goals. My wife and I aren't surprised by anything he does."

Naturally, the extended Collie clan will be on hand Saturday when BYU visits Stanford at Stanford Stadium. "We've got a contingent of about 24 that will be there," Scott says.

The Cougars are counting on more big plays from Austin Collie this week and throughout the season. When the season's over, Collie plans to leave for two years to serve an LDS Church mission. For now, he's relishing every moment.

"It's more than I ever dreamed of," Collie says.

E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com