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Monday, April 27, 2009

Collie, Vakapuna grabbed in draft

When Austin Collie announced in January that he was forgoing his senior season at BYU to enter the National Football League draft, he said he was eager to take on a new challenge.

That new challenge became clearer Sunday, when BYU's all-time receiving leader was drafted in the fourth round (No. 127 overall) by the Indianapolis Colts — a franchise that won the Super Bowl in 2007 and is quarterbacked by NFL superstar Peyton Manning.

For Collie, going from BYU-blue to Indianapolis Colt-blue seems like the ideal situation.

"I couldn't be happier. It's the best scenario. It couldn't have gone any better," said Collie, who spent Sunday at his parents' home in El Dorado Hills, Calif. "It was what I was hoping for, in a nutshell. I was expecting, and hoping, to go in the fourth round. Anything before that would have been a blessing. Honestly, of all the teams that had been looking at me and talking to me, the Colts were No. 1. I definitely like the organization. And it doesn't hurt having one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history throwing you the ball."

After he was drafted, Collie talked to Colt head coach Jim Caldwell and team president Bill Polian. Collie, the 19th receiver drafted overall, leaves Thursday for Indianapolis, where he'll take part in mini-camp.

"I'm excited to play under coach Caldwell and the rest of the Colts organization," Collie said.

He added that the Colts' offense fits his style of play, noting the success of second-year Indianapolis receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who caught 37 passes for 576 yards as a rookie, then hauled in 57 receptions for 664 yards last season.

"Just watching Anthony Gonzalez go there and the way he's made an impact at the wide receiver spot gives me some hope that I can hopefully do the same thing. It's going to give me a great opportunity to showcase my skills and hopefully be able to contribute to the team. The offense is designed to my skill set. I can't wait to get out there and show it off."

Collie, who led the nation in receiving yards last season (1,538), is expected to help fill the void left by longtime Colt receiver Marvin Harrison, who was released in February.

One other BYU product was drafted — running back Fui Vakapuna, who was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round (No. 215 overall). Vakapuna is expected to fill a need at fullback in Cincinnati, where he'll be reunited with former BYU teammate Daniel Coats, who has been with the Bengals since 2007.

Going into the weekend, Vakapuna had his sights set on being drafted. "Oakland and the Bengals were showing me a lot of love," he said. "I didn't know what round I'd go in."

Vakapuna said there were some anxious moments as the draft wound down Sunday afternoon. "When Oakland drafted a defensive end (in the seventh round), I was thinking Cincinnati the whole time, seeing what they would do. When I got that call, words can't express what I was feeling. It was way exciting. It still hasn't sunk in."

Vakapuna spent the day with his family, including his cousin, Fahu Tahi, a former BYU running back who plays for the Minnesota Vikings.

Meanwhile, several former Cougars who were not drafted signed rookie free agent contracts Sunday, including linebacker David Nixon (Oakland Raiders) and offensive linemen Dallas Reynolds (Philadelphia Eagles), Travis Bright (Dallas Cowboys) and Ray Feinga (St. Louis Rams).

Collie described Sunday as "a nervous day" as he awaited word about his future. But everybody associated with Collie was thrilled with the outcome.

"It couldn't have been better," said his agent, Carter Chow. "The only thing that could have been better would have been the Colts taking him as their No. 1 pick. As far as having a quarterback who knows how to distribute the ball and Austin's skill set, it's perfect for him."

Collie's father, Scott, a former BYU receiver who played several seasons in the Canadian Football League, agreed.

"For a selection and a team to go to and a good fit with the type of player he is, that's what it's all about," he said. "It's an opportunity to go into an offensive scheme that fits his type of play. It worked out well. (The Colts) have a perfect offense that fits the type of receiver Austin is. An opportunity to step on to the field is exciting for everybody. You watch some of the names go off the (draft) board and you kind of feel where you fit in. A little bit of anxiety started to creep in during the draft. It boils down to being given an opportunity to get on the field, show what you can do and make a team. That's what it's all about right now."

Collie became the ninth Cougar wide receiver to be taken in the NFL draft and the highest pick at wideout from BYU since Dan Plater went in the fourth round in 1982.

Others former Cougar receivers who were drafted include Todd Watkins (seventh round, 2006), Mark Bellini (seventh round, 1987), Glen Kozlowski (11th round, 1986), Kirk Pendleton (11th round, 1984), Lloyd Jones (eighth round, 1981) and Phil Odle (fifth round, 1968). Another former BYU receiver, Golden Richards, transferred to Hawaii to finish up his collegiate career and he was selected in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys in 1973.

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