Provo • Stifling mid-August heat and near-suffocating smoke from nearby forest fires made it difficult to be outside Wednesday on BYU’s campus, let alone see the 'Y' on the mountain a short distance away.
But fifth-year senior receiver Dylan Collie said there was no other place he would rather be.
That’s saying something, considering the 24-year-old from El Dorado Hills, Calif., actually made the choice last spring to leave the beautiful island of Oahu and a starting position on the Hawaii football team for Provo.
“I’ve got no regrets at all,” Collie said Wednesday after posing for countless pictures and granting at least four interviews during Photo Day at the Indoor Practice Facility.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound slot receiver was talking about not looking back on his original decision to leave BYU and the unusual college football journey that took him from a redshirt freshman on the Cougars’ 2012 squad to a two-year Mormon church mission to Richmond, Va., to Hawaii, where he caught 118 passes for 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns in three seasons. Just the same, he could have been discussing his choice to return to BYU, picking coach Kalani Sitake’s foundering program over an offer from Vanderbilt of the SEC when he decided to take advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule and leave UH.
“Changes were made, and whether those were good decisions or not, it was what I needed in my life to be able to become the person that I can be,” Collie said. “They were made so I could develop relationships with people and with my wife [the former Savannah Ellison] and my future kids. All the experiences that we have been able to have in the last three years have been awesome. I will never regret it.”
Collie, who asked for his release from UH after the end of last season, said he’s not aware of another college football player who left a program on his own free will, had a great amount of success at another Division I program, then returned to the program he signed with out of high school.
“It is very, very different,” he said. “Transferring in the first place is different. But doing it twice and then coming back to where you started in the first place is unique. I was given a great opportunity, so I seized it.”
Neither head coach Kalani Sitake nor receivers coach Fesi Sitake have heard of such a journey in all their years of coaching football.
“No, I haven’t,” Kalani Sitake said. “This is the first time, but if there are others out there that have that type of experience, I will take them — wink.”
Said Fesi Sitake, who was involved in recruiting Collie back to BYU: “It’s a first for me. But I love it. It’s a cool story.”
That story’s ending has yet to be written, but longtime BYU fans are hoping it is similar to Reno Mahe’s path. After rushing for 481 yards and seven touchdowns and posting 851 all-purpose yards for BYU in 1998, Mahe was forced to leave for a junior college (Dixie State). He returned to BYU in 2001 and had two great years for the Cougars before moving on to the NFL.
Fesi Sitake said Collie is off to a great start.
“He has learned this complex offense as quickly as anyone,” Fesi Sitake said. “That has been proven when he is out on the field. He knows the plays. … I have been really happy with Dylan’s progression.”
The former Weber State offensive coordinator said the timing was right to get Collie back to BYU, where his father (Scott) and brothers (Zac and Austin) also had standout careers as receivers.
“We were able to go there [to Hawaii] and paint a picture as to why coming back here would be the best thing for him,” Fesi Sitake said.
Having arrived in the middle of May, Collie began working out with the team in player-run-practices (PRPs) in early June and has been impressed with how “culturally up to date the program has become.” A lot has changed since he made the decision while on his mission to leave BYU, having gotten the vibe then from offensive coordinator Robert Anae and receivers coach Guy Holliday that they wanted taller receivers.
“I am super, super excited to take advantage of every thing we have here, from a groundbreaking offense to the media [attention], to the technology we get to use,” he said. “The fact that I get an iPad to study film on every single day, that is absolutely mind-blowing.”
Almost as much as a successful player returning to a program he once left.
DYLAN COLLIE’S CAREER
2012 • Redshirted at BYU and played on the scout team
2013-14 • Served a two-year LDS Church mission to Richmond, Va.
2015 • Caught 29 passes for 342 yards as a redshirt freshman at Hawaii
2016 • Caught 33 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns at Hawaii
2017 • Caught 56 passes for 636 yards and four touchdowns in final season at Hawaii
2018 • Returned to BYU as a graduate transfer and is immediately eligible