Austin Collie's fast track to the Big Show doesn't surprise those who know him.

Just eight years ago, Collie was a skinny high school player from California trying to catch somebody's eye around BYU's summer youth football camp, where his big brother Zac helped run things.

Just 14 months ago, he became BYU's all-time leading receiver two years after an LDS mission to Argentina. A year ago, Collie was in Los Angeles working out for the NFL combine as the NCAA's pass reception leader. Two weeks ago, he helped the Colts in a come-from-behind victory in the AFC Championship.

This week, barring injury, Austin Collie will start in the Super Bowl less than a year from being the Colts' fourth-round draft pick.

Determined, motivated, a self-made perfectionist and king gym rat. Those words more than describe Collie. It is an understatement to say he certainly made a huge mark after leaving BYU at the end of his junior season.

A risk to leave college early? Not really.

Just a big reward.

Collie's best NFL game may have been the last time he played. It came in a key role in a win over the New York Jets in the AFC Championships.

"I can't tell you how proud I was of Austin," BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae said of Collie in that game. "On one play, he was the inside receiver left of the formation and unlike in college they didn't have a linebacker on him, they had an NFL corner on him, a cover guy.

"I was so proud to see Austin overpower that defensive back on a block and that back squirted right off his block and got 8 or 10 extra yards based on his block alone. It was really gratifying to see a player of this caliber make plays that we've modeled our program after here at BYU — blocking and securing the football.

"Austin had a nice couple of catches but that stuff is natural to him. He didn't come to BYU to learn how to be a big playmaker. That's just natural.

But these other things, football-wise, to see him do them was very gratifying and satisfying."

This week in Miami, Collie will be part of the amazing file in the Colts' Super Bowl story. Package the rookie with QB sensation Peyton Manning and it's as good a story angle as any we'll see surface this week. On media days, Collie's table will be two or three deep with media hounds trolling for quotes.

Just like his days with the Cougars, Collie makes headlines.

Adding in postseason numbers, Collie has caught 71 catches for 841 yards and nine touchdowns.

He even became part of comedian Dennis Miller's routine as a Fox News commentator on the Bill O'Reilly Show a week ago. Quipped Miller, when asked about the Super Bowl: "Well, listen, when Darrelle Revis ... doesn't shut down Reggie Wayne or the tight end down there ... but when two kids named Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon get 275 yards, that tells me that Peyton Manning is just an absolute freaking genius. And as much as I like the Saints, I don't know that you can stop Peyton Manning. He is un-freaking-believable."

Collie's impact on the Colts caught the nation's attention this season when Manning lost veteran receivers Marvin Harrison (released before the season) and Anthony Gonzalez (knee injury in Week 1).

Relief wasn't supposed to come this quick for Indianapolis, but it came with Collie and Garcon.

"The interesting thing, when you look at Indianapolis, has been Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie and how quickly they've emerged and developed," former Denver Bronco general manager Ted Sundquist told the Sporting News. "In clutch situations, third-down situations, when they've needed to make a play, (Manning) is not just looking for Reggie Wayne. He hasn't been afraid to go to those guys."

Before the win over the Jets for the AFC title, George Willis, writing in the New York Post, put it this way: "For a rookie, trying to learn the Colts offense is like taking a crash course in honors calculus, chemistry and the theory of relativity all in the same day. With Peyton Manning operating as the NFL version of Albert Einstein, the Colts complex system of audibles and adjustments at the line of scrimmage is difficult to understand, let alone master. That's why the Colts marvel at how productive rookie wide receiver Austin Collie has been this season."

All Collie did in that AFC title game was haul in seven catches for 123 yards and a dramatic over-the-head touchdown pass just before halftime that got the Colts within four points. Manning went exclusively to Collie on that drive. That he rose to the occasion doesn't surprise the Colts.

Indianapolis president Bill Polian told an Indy radio audience a few days later that around his franchise it quickly became obvious Collie belonged.

"When Austin got here, the first day of workouts for rookies, two guys jumped out: Austin Collie and (cornerback) Jerraud Powers," Polian said.

"You could tell right away they were going to be in the lineup. For those of us around here, and those of us who cover our team — if they bother to listen — there was a constant refrain that, 'Yeah, we have some pretty good young receivers here. They're going to be good football players.' That kind of took on a life of its own in the preseason as they began to show more and more as the season began and they've performed admirably throughout."

Collie's work ethic stood out.

"He has sort of a gym-rat mentality," said Colts head coach Jim Caldwell.

"There are not too many mornings that I come in here and walk through the hallway and I'll see the light flickering in the wide receivers room, and he's in there watching film before anybody else gets an opportunity to see it. I do think that has helped him, in terms of his preparation and seeing different defenses run at different speeds that oftentimes guys don't get a real good sense of that until it happens to him. He does a lot of great prep work."

Anae said the deal Collie has going with Manning is something that has to grow between to players. He's seen it at BYU, the latest with Max Hall and Collie and Hall and Dennis Pitta.

"It requires an extreme amount of chemistry with your quarterback. It's the chemistry that makes that work. It's above and beyond coaching. Your coaching is putting the players in the spot, putting in the formation and the plays, installing practice. But it is the little details, the chemistry that evolves between players, that in my opinion, is where the magic is.

"What I see going on there with the Colts is that quarterback has developed some chemistry with Austin. They've worked hard together. There is no doubt both those players are outstanding, talented guys in their field. But you mix that talent with chemistry, confidence and reliability, it starts to take on a life of its own and it's more than coaching.

"We've been fortunate here at BYU to be around that chemistry when it takes place."

Collie said he was intimidated when he first joined the Colts, knowing he'd be working with a talent like Manning.

"He's a guy you watch play growing up," said Collie. "Not only him, but Reggie (Wayne) and Dallas (Clark). You watch these guys play and all of sudden you're on the team with them and running routes with them and being coached by them. It's kind of a cool experience."

Collie never wanted to be anything short of what was needed and expected to complement Clark and Wayne. He knew if he didn't step up his game, he'd never have a chance to play.

"When you have guys like we have every day at practice, you're forced to give it your best," he said. "You're forced to go as hard as you can and give everything you've got because they raise your level of competition.

"Having these guys and having their example has been a tremendous help for me."

It is very rare for a BYU wide receiver to play in a Super Bowl. Over the years, BYU has had receivers like Glen Kozlowski, Mark Bellini and Todd Watkins find roles on NFL teams.

"It's about time we had one in the Super Bowl," said Anae. "Austin deserves to be there."

Saints vs. Colts

4:25 p.m. Sunday in Miami

TV: CBS Radio: AM-1320

Austin Collie's stats

Regular season

Week Opponent. . .Rec.. . .Yds.. . .TDs

1 Jaguars. . .2. . .15. . .0

2 at Dolphins. . .1. . . 4. . .0

3 at Cardinals. . .3. . . 47. . . 0

4 Seahawks. . . 6. . . 65. . . 1

5 at Titans. . . 8. . . 97. . . 2

6 bye

7 at Rams. . . 4. . . 36. . . 1

8 49ers. . . 6. . . 66. . . 0

9 Texans. . . 2. . . 26. . . 0

10 Patriots. . . 6. . . 45. . . 0

11 at Ravens. . . 1. . . 12. . . 0

12 at Texans. . . 4. . . 70. . . 0

13 Titans. . . 4. . . 18. . . 1

14 Broncos. . . 3. . . 39. . . 1

15 at Jaguars. . . 3. . . 27. . . 1

16 Jets. . . 6. . . 94. . . 0

17 at Bills. . . 1. . . 15. . . 0

Playoffs

View Comments

Week Opponent. . . Rec.. . . Yds.. . . TDs

19 Ravens. . . 4. . . 52. . . 1

20 Jets. . . 7. . . 123. . . 1

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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