49ers' third preseason game key for Collie
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Through high school at Oak Ridge and college at Brigham Young University and on into the NFL, Austin Collie has found success on the football field at every level. This preseason, the 49ers wide receiver finds himself in the unusual position of trying to make a roster.

“It’s kind of tough,” Collie said as the team prepared for its third preseason game Thursday. “I don’t think my injury could have happened at a worse point in my career, being a free agent. Now you have to fight to make the team, and not only that, you’re getting used to playing again. It’s an uphill battle.”

Collie is talking about a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee. The injury ended his season with the Colts last year after just three games, though the El Dorado Hills native is more known for the brutal hit he took in a game against Philadelphia during the 2010 season. It was his first of three concussions with the Colts.

Indianapolis released Collie after the 2012 season. San Francisco signed him on Aug. 2. Collie says he has passed all neurological tests and the knee is 100 percent healed as well.

The Sacramento Bee once deemed Collie the Sacramento Area Player of the Decade for 2000-2009. He still holds the record for the most career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns at BYU. The seven balls he caught for 123 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Championship his rookie year marks a career best. Now, the 27-year old is competing with 10 other receivers for one of five, possibly six, openings on the 49ers roster.

[RELATED: Austin Collie career stats]

“This is a good opportunity for me to compete,” Collie said.  “A good opportunity for me to compete with a group of guys who go against a defense who’s maybe one of the tops in the NFL and have an opportunity to make this squad.”

But those opportunities have been limited. Collie has been on the field for 37 snaps in the 49ers' first two preseason games. He has been targeted five times and has three total catches for 31 yards. Collie has worked with four, soon to be five, different quarterbacks while with San Francisco, limiting his time with the starter.

“I haven’t got a ton of opportunity to work with Colin. But the times I have he does a pretty good job of reading a receiver’s body language,” Collie explained. “He knows a receiver, and when Colin’s in the huddle, that ball is coming. He has a strong arm. You definitely kind of have to flip a switch as far as your alertness, as far as being ready when you come out of your break just because you know that ball is going to be on you and it’s going to be on you fast. That’s definitely something that I’ve learned just being around him and just throwing routes on air and the reps that I do get with him.”

In the week before the Colts played the Saints in Super Bowl LXIV, Peyton Manning had only words of praise for Collie in regards to his work ethic and preparation. It’s the same work ethic that could earn Collie a spot among the 49ers final 53, even with only a few weeks to do so.

“I’ve kind of had the mindset just compete every day,” Collie said. “Understand that, ‘Hey, you’ve only been in this thing for two weeks now. There are going to be mistakes made. Just make sure to not make them twice, to learn from them and get better.'"