Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Austin Collie was one of the biggest surprises of the 2009 NFL Draft. After being selected in the fourth round — number 127 overall — he quickly picked up the offense and found himself in the starting lineup for five regular-season games, and the Super Bowl.
Collie, who impressed many right away — including, no doubt, Peyton Manning — with his work ethic in training camp, had 60 catches in his first season. His 676 receiving yards and seven touchdowns led all rookies.
But Collie is not one to rest on his achievements.
“I do see him getting better," coach Jim Caldwell said this week. "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's opportunities came in part last season because of an injury to Anthony Gonzalez. With Gonzalez back this season, competition to be on the receiving end of Manning's throws will be fierce.
“The sky is the limit," Caldwell said. "I think he can keep improving. I think there have been a number of guys that have set a standard around here that they tend to get better each and every year. That’s certainly his objective this year.”
HARTZ'S HUNCH: Collie caught my eye early in training camp last season, when, as Caldwell said, he was one of the first on the training ground and usually the last one off of it. He was constantly doing little drills to help improve his quickness, route-running and hands, including working out with tennis balls.
Collie made some mistakes as a rookie, but also put up very solid numbers — probably better than anyone, even Collie, Manning or the coaching staff expected. Even if he doesn't duplicate those numbers in 2010 — he may see a slight drop-off as the Colts continue to spread the ball around more, and Gonzalez returns to the mix — he still will be a valuable part of the offense. He works too hard not to be, and the return of Gonzalez will only push him harder.
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