His NFL career was never the same after 2011, but Austin Collie refuses to walk away from football.
The former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver returned to action Saturday in the Canadian Football League and caught five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown for the BC Lions.
A fourth-round pick in 2009 for the Colts, Collie quickly became a favorite target for quarterback Peyton Manning as he caught 15 touchdown passes in his first two NFL seasons.
But then came the concussions. Twice he was laid out on horrifying hits. He also suffered another head trauma, from which the team said he suffered “concussion-like symptoms.” That landed Collie on injured reserve in 2011.
One game into 2012, he suffered a knee injury and was placed on IR again. That ended his Colts career.
His last NFL game was in 2013, when he suited up for the rival New England Patriots, for whom he caught six passes for 63 yards.
Collie’s story of “what might have been” is memorable. He caught 172 passes for the Colts, including 16 touchdowns, but it could have been so much more if not for the concussions.
At 29, he’s still convinced there’s more football to play. Before his CFL opener, Collie spoke to the Salt Lake Tribune about not giving up on the game.
“I wouldn't necessarily say it’s so much for the love of the game,” Collie said from his Salt Lake home. ‘I just felt like I wasn't done. That feeling of not being done, that’s what kept my drive going.”
Collie said he never envisioned being in the CFL, where his father once played for Hamilton. But he’s considered an important cog for the Lions.
“He’ll be a major part of the offense,” Lions coach Jeff Tedford told the Salt Lake Tribune. “He’s starting, and he’s a guy that we really need to get the ball to.”
The story reported that Collie makes regular visits to Cognitive FX, a concussion rehabilitation and research clinic in Provo, Utah. He undergoes testing to ensure his brain is functioning properly.
“It's just a place I go every now and then to, basically, rehabilitate the head and make sure the head’s right and still functioning properly, the way it should,” Collie said. “The brain is a very elaborate muscle. A lot of things need to be done to make sure that it stays sharp and stays strong.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.