The brothers were huddled around a cellphone in the living room of their family’s home in El Dorado Hills about six weeks ago.
Austin and Dylan Collie, football diehards, studied video clips of thunderous dunks, and they burst into laughter, they said.
The Oak Ridge High School graduates don’t dabble in hoops much these days. They’re wide receivers, playing far from home – Austin as a professional north of the border, Dylan in college on an island, hoping to follow Austin’s footsteps.
And both have a lot to prove, to themselves and others.
The clips showed Austin Collie dunking during a workout in Utah. Not bad for a 6-footer.
“Yep, older brother’s still got it,” Dylan said by phone Sunday night from Hawaii, where he is participating in spring drills for the Rainbow Warriors.
Austin, 29, thinks he’s still got it, too, even if his opinion isn’t shared by NFL executives.
Austin was a fourth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, caught 15 touchdown passes in his first two seasons and then was slowed by injuries, including three concussions. He played in one game in 2012 and seven in 2013, but he wasn’t in the league last fall. He signed in January with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League but aims to return to the NFL, though he wonders if his history in this era of heightened concussion awareness has deterred teams.
“Why am I not in the NFL? I don’t know,” Austin Collie told the Vancouver Sun last week. “I would think the big part is the injury history that’s right there.
“The bottom line is, if those didn’t happen when they did, right at the height of the concussion discussion, I’d probably still be playing (in the NFL). Everybody can comment on it. Everybody has their opinion. But I’m not them.”
Austin said he isn’t ready to walk away from the game in his prime, as some other players recently have.
“Football is a childhood dream for me,” he said. “It’s a way to provide for my family and play a game I love. To not be playing, because of a label, is hard. I’ve been labeled.”
Dylan, 21, grew emotional talking about his brother.
“It’s hard for me, because I think there is a bias (in the NFL) with the concussions,” Dylan said. “It’s my brother, who means everything to me. Austin is everything one could ever look up to. I get emotional saying that.
“He deserves another shot in the NFL. He has so much to offer a locker room, an incredible receiver, a role player who’s a big-time player who plays so hard. Yet, you see what happens with a feeling of, ‘Oh, he’s concussion-prone, the knees.’ He knows he can play, and he’s healthy, the best shape of his life.”
Now back to that video.
“Austin tells me, ‘You gotta watch this!’” Dylan recalled. “So I was watching this 29-year-old throwing down a windmill dunk, and I can see he looks great. I wanted to match him, but I’m not even sure I can reach the rim.”
Dylan just wants to catch passes again. He last played in 2011, his senior season at Oak Ridge. He served a two-year LDS mission in Virginia, where he helped the poor with food, comfort and soothing words of faith and support. In December, he transferred from BYU – where Austin, older brother Zac, 32, and their father Scott – played wide receiver. He wanted a fresh start, so he headed to Hawaii.
“I’m feeling good, really excited, and I’ve missed football, the competitiveness, the team aspect, because this game is more than just catching a football and scoring touchdowns,” Dylan said. “I gained so much appreciation for what we have after going on that mission. It was so humbling to see people of real poverty, to struggle every day, because I was never lacking growing up in El Dorado Hills. Some that I worked with really struggle, but they found joy in their family, their friends, and I loved that.”
Dylan finds joy in football. He stressed that he has never considered giving up the game, despite the injuries Austin has suffered.
“No, quitting has never crossed my mind,” Dylan said. “The benefits you get from football, the attributes you learn – the leadership, the experiences, the formality it gives to your life, beyond the competitive nature – it’s all worth it. Football is not just some silly game you play with a leather ball. The positives outweigh the negatives 10-fold.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.