The most vivid memory most Brigham Young University football fans have of Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Austin Collie is a 4th-and-18 catch against arch rival Utah in 2007 to keep the Cougars' game-winning drive alive.
For those who root against BYU, the most vivid memory of Collie is a quote given to a local radio reporter after that game.
"Obviously, if you do what's right on and off the field, I think the Lord steps in and plays a part in it," Collie said that day. "Magic happens."
The comment set off a firestorm in the Beehive State, where the relationship between church and state has almost always been a hot-button issue. The idea that God prefers one team to another, as many believed Collie meant, took the debate to another level.
Even after seeing the reaction to his comments, Collie stood by his intended idea: that hard work and right living can bring anyone positive results.
"God cares about his children and he's going to bless them whether it's on the football field or any other areas of their lives," Collie told the Deseret News. "I think if you're doing the things you should do on and off the field, things are going to come together for you.
"To tell you I got here on my own and that the Lord hasn't had a hand in my success and our team's success and every other athlete's success in this world is just B.S., because he's had a hand in every person's life."
Fast forward to Sunday's AFC Championship Game in which Collie had the game of his life: seven catches, 123 yards, and a leaping 16-yard touchdown catch that permanently swung the momentum back to the Colts.
Collie did not need to provide reporters with another potentially inflammatory quote—he allowed his play to do the talking.
Many will say the 6'0'', 200-pound rookie would not have gotten this chance without Anthony Gonzalez's knee injury in Week One. True as that may be, injury did not guarantee Collie a starting spot.
Former Eagles wideout Hank Baskett, who the Colts signed after Gonzalez went down, could have risen to the occasion. After all, he has four inches, 20 pounds and three years' experience on Collie.
Baskett's regular season stats with the Colts? Four catches, 28 yards.
Is God punishing Baskett for marrying playmate Kendra Wilkinson? Doubtful.
On the other hand, Collie built a strong rapport with the legendary Peyton Manning, as well as fellow receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon.
The result: At least one catch in each regular season game, including seven touchdowns.
Is Collie being rewarded, divinely or otherwise, for his work ethic and adherence to the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) code of health, which prohibits alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and other harmful drugs? More likely.
If asked, would Collie say Garcon's similarly-outstanding game Sunday (11 catches, 151 yards, a touchdown, and the chance to proudly display the Haitian flag afterwards) is a reward for his own hard work and discipline, regardless of his religious affiliation? Absolutely.
Now, Collie and his fellow Colts are a part of the world's grandest annual spectacle. Chances are, Collie will be asked at some point about his beliefs. The reporter who asks the question may even refer to Collie's now-infamous quote.
Any chance Collie wavers in his response? No.
Any reason he should? After his efforts this season, not in the least.
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