Collies brand the magic
El Dorado Hills’ first family of football, the Collies, will host a series of football camps and receiver competitions this summer.
Zac and Austin Collie tore up the gridiron at Oak Ridge in the early 2000s, shattering school and state records along the way. The youngest son, Dylan, is coming off a stellar senior season but couldn’t match his older brothers’ receiving statistics, largely because he spent part of the season filling in as quarterback for the injury-plagued Trojans.
But there’s no doubt that Dylan’s a pureblood Collie receiver. In a freakish half-game performance against Cordova this past season he caught nine passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns before getting knocked out of the game.
Papa Collie, Scott, is behind the venture, which he’s dubbed ReceiverTech. He left professional football in 1986 and briefly considered a career in coaching, but with Zac and Austin at home with his wife Nicole and plans for an even larger family – Dylan, Taylore and Cameron would follow over the next several years — Scott opted for sales and marketing, channeling his passion for football and coaching toward his boys, who grew up with a football in their hands.
When he ran out of sons to train, Scott started a small receiver camp in El Dorado Hills and also began offering one-on-one training to select students.
Dylan’s 2011 decision to attend his father’s and brothers’ alma mater, Brigham Young University, turned up the volume on national buzz that began when Austin played in the Super Bowl with the Colts in 2010.
With demand for Scott’s training services on the rise, friends suggested he formalize and expand his 12-man camp. After much hand-wringing Scott left his position with Quest Software and put those years of marketing to good use by creating the brand “ReceiverTech.”
Basic “RT Camps” will be offered in Utah and Oregon this year, and will provide an accelerated introduction to football in all skill positions on offense, defense and special teams for ages 7 to 17. The more specialized “RT Receiver Camp” targets wide receivers, tight ends and running backs ages 10 to 17 who are already playing football.
“Collie Camps” are three-day versions of the RT camps, scheduled for Utah, Oregon and California this summer. They include Collie passing progeny Zac, Austin and Dylan. The inaugural camp will be held June 19-21 at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento. The cost is $225.
Campers get their picture taken with Austin, who also promised to share some favorite football moments. “This isn’t a celebrity camp where I just make an appearance and leave,” said Austin. “My brothers and I will be there working with you, teaching you what we’ve learned.”
Football camps are nothing new to Austin, who’s been part of the Manning Passing Academy for several seasons.
The Manning camp, led by famed quarterback Archie and sons Peyton, Eli and Cooper, is a model for the Collies. “They really bring their knowledge and love of the game,” said Scott, “and Peyton and Eli work directly with the kids.”
The need for fundamentals is greater than ever, said Scott. Coaching staffs are smaller and the demands are greater. As a result, many high school and college teams have cut the fundamentals.
“I see guys that don’t know how to run a route, get off the ball or make a cut,” said Scott. “Someone needs to teach these kids about hand checking, how to fight off a bump and get into a route, maintain separation from the defender and, most importantly, catch the ball and put it away.”
Football = life
The Collies are practicing Mormons with squeaky clean reputations. Scott and Nicole are often asked about their parenting techniques, questions that Nicole isn’t comfortable with.
“If I had some magic elixir I’d share it,” she said. “But we didn’t do anything that wasn’t common sense.”
Besides, she added, “These kids aren’t perfect, and the last thing I want is to see them put on a pedestal. Some people will wait for them to fail.”
Parenting issues aside, Scott found that many moms and dads who hired him to work with their sons were hoping to get some life skills thrown in with the football skills.
He’s happy to oblige. “That’s a natural part of the football discussion,” he said. “Life experiences parallel football experiences.”
Both are part of the curriculum. “If a coach comes down hard, and they do sometimes, it can mess up an athlete if they’re not prepared,” he explained. “I’ve see plenty of players wash out because they aren’t ready mentally.”
In Scott’s one-on-one training, which lives on as ReceiverTech “Elite Training,” he teaches kids to navigate the different personalities in football — coaches, teammates and others they may not like but have to work with, “whether it’s a football team, a family or a job,” he said.
He also encourages them to ask for what they need to succeed. Under his tutelage, one student asked his coach for a change in position, he said. Another asked a volleyball coach to teach him how to jump properly.
Scott has seen a lot of big kids get pidgeonholed as linemen at an early age, before they’ve grown into their bodies. With training and hard work, many can become great tight ends, he said.
Trojan tackle Hunter Spriggs might be one. Hunter’s dad, Oak Ridge Foundation President Scott Spriggs, watched Collie teach the skills needed to play tight end. “I’ve been around coaches for years,” Spriggs said. “This guy has an amazing gift for teaching.”
The three Collies kids bring vastly different football experiences to the camp. The oldest, Zac, didn’t physically mature until his senior year at Oak Ridge, “a great athlete, but he struggled,” said Scott. “I see so many kids like Zac frustrated because they don’t have the physical tools … yet.”
Zac got big, strong and fast. With sound fundamentals already in place, he was able to walk on at BYU, win a starting job and scholarship.
He was later drafted by the Eagles but ,in the vagaries of the NFL pre-season roster shuffle, was released. He never experienced the success that Austin would achieve a couple of years later.
Austin, by comparison, was treated like an elite athlete at each step of the way, said Scott. He also delivered the goods, catching 60 passes for 978 yards and 18 touchdowns in an All-American senior year at Oak Ridge.
Scott takes great pride in Austin’s humility and work ethic. “He was an elite athlete, but never an elitist.”
Austin’s freshman season at BYU was another All-American affair. With his sites firmly set on the NFL, Austin left school on a mission following his sophomore year.
He returned two years later to lead the nation in receiving as a junior, then entered the NFL draft.
Little brother Dylan had to live with the pressure and the comparisons of his big league brothers. Anyone who’s met him can attest that Dylan seems to hold up pretty well. In 2011 Village Life asked him about the pressure of living in the shadow of Zac and Austin. “I live for that pressure,” he replied.
It was Dylan who had the idea for a receiver competition, a complement to the annual “Elite 11” quarterback competition sponsored by Nike and broadcast as a weeklong documentary by ESPN.
“I’ve always looked for a way to separate myself from the competition and let me demonstrate my skills,” he said.
The finalists in each of three regional competitions will appear with the Elite 11quarterbacks in Redondo Beach in July.
Scott contends that great high school receivers who play in less successful programs often go unnoticed by college scouts. He sees RT25 as a chance for them to gain national recognition.
The top-ranked receivers in the country will be invited, but high school coaches are encouraged to nominate their favorite unheralded receivers.
Like Billy Bean, the Oakland A’s General Manager portrayed by Brad Pit in “Moneyball,” Collie questions conventional thinking about what makes an athlete great in his sport.
Bean used statistics that were previously ignored. The Collies use specialized drills that test the skills they want to see in a receiver.
“I don’t’ give a rip how fast these guys can run the 40,” said Scott. “I’ve seen plenty of track stars that can’t catch.”
He certainly has. One particularly good track star cost him a spot on the 49ers dynasty team of the mid 1980s. Scott was a last-minute cut by legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh just before the 1983 season. Walsh awarded the final receiver spot to Renaldo Nehemiah, the fastest man in the world at the time.
But Nehemiah caught just 43 passes in a brief, three-year football career, an irony that Scott rarely talks about and refuses to dwell on.
One week after he was cut Scott became a Hamilton Tiger Cat and played four years in the Canadian Football League before retiring with injuries.
One CFL skill that’s become increasingly important in modern, short-drop, quick-release NFL offensive schemes is the ability to absorb high-velocity, off-target passes from quarterbacks scrambling for their lives.
To test those skills the Collie competition asks receivers to take high-velocity passes from a “Jugs” football passing machine at 10-second intervals. After each series they move up a few yards and do it again, the misaimed bullets zinging in faster with the reduced distance.
The drill measures reaction time, form, the receiver’s ability to handle velocity and, most importantly, catch footballs.
Dylan said the drill is a great test of fundamentals. “I want to see a receiver catch the ball with hands out in front, lock it in and put it away, then get ready for the next ball within 10 seconds.”
He and Austin did the drill together recently. How’d he do? “I got within three yards,” Dylan said. Ouch.
Other tests include variations of the “three cone” and “pro agility” drills, tests of speed and real-world route-running under the watchful gaze of expert judges ranking how they accelerate into and out of their “breaks,” the abrupt stops, starts, dekes and redirections that make up a typical route.
Those routes are the bread and butter of the NFL passing game, which was resuscitated by the guy that cut Scott from the 49ers.
Since then, the huge linebackers who anchor football defenses and discourage the short, high percentage passes that Bill Walsh strung together in the “West Coast” offense have become some of the fastest and most athletic players on the team.
Offenses have countered with what Austin offers and the Collie camps teach — smart, fundamentally sound receivers who understand defensives and can react as the play unfolds, factoring in the tendencies of specific defenders and even coaches, and can be relied on when it’s third and long.
A like-minded quarterback who’s often in full flight must intuit the receiver’s actions with instantaneous decisions based on subsecond glimpses of routes in progress with receivers destined for prearranged “soft spots” in the fluid defenses they face.
It takes an agile mind trained to make those decisions consistently and reliably. But at the end of the play the receiver needs the fundamental skill to catch the ball and put it away.
One-day contests that measure all that will be held in Northern and Southern California, plus Utah. The Sacramento competition will be held at Luther Burbank High School on June 16.
RT25 is cosponsored by the Positive Coaching Alliance, which teaches sportsmanship on and off the field. Participation is by invitation only. For more information visit the ReceiverTech website, receivertech.com.