Incoming freshman WR Deion Colzie is back on track with big dreams for Notre Dame
It’s not just the numbers. It’s the context that envelopes them.
Which is why Robert Hill is so eager to see how a track and field season that was never supposed to happen translates to the football field for Notre Dame incoming freshman wide receiver Deion Colzie.
Colzie got healthy. He transcended. And then the 6-foot-3, 215-pound graduating senior at Athens (Ga.) Academy wowed his way to three medals at the Georgia Class A Private state meet on May 14-15 in Powder Springs and into his high school’s record book.
“It’s kind of a magical story, but this is not a story about magic,” said Hill, an assistant coach for both track and football at Athens Academy. “This is a story about a good kid who was going to be good regardless of us. But he made himself over-the-top great.
“This is a story about a kid with a lot of talent, and a work ethic that’s even more impressive.”
In roughly three weeks, Colzie brings that plot line to South Bend as one of 13 members of ND’s 27-man freshman class who didn’t enroll early, in February. Several others among the 13, who start class and summer workouts on June 14, have similar tales of spring transformations.
Some on the baseball diamond. Some in the weight room. Some with COVID-delayed and abridged football seasons. Some on the track.
How it played out for Colzie in his final high school athletic exploits was a second-place finish in the high jump (6-8), a fourth-place showing in the 100-meter dash (10.95 seconds) and a fifth-place finish as part of the 4-by-100 relay team (43.67).
High jump champ Jack Miscall of Stratford Academy also cleared 6-8 and broke the tie for first with Colzie based on fewer misses.
Colzie almost cleared 6-10 on his second attempt, a height he nailed in practice a couple of times this spring, per Hill. Still, Colzie’s 6-feet-8 leap represents a school record as does his 10.82 100 in the state prelims, which happened to be only the fifth 100 dash the wide receiver had ever run in competition in his high school career.
“I have a friend who’s an ex-college runner and brought him into practice to help Deion with a few little markers in the 100,” Hill said. “How to hold his arms, how to hold his chest, how to come out of the blocks and that kind of thing.
“But there really wasn’t much time to practice and perfect that. I can only imagine how things might have turned out if we did.”
The reason for the time crunch was that Colzie began the track season as a student assistant coach of sorts. A series of nagging injuries that diluted his senior football season and followed him through basketball was still lingering when track season started.
Head track coach Neville Anderson and Hill persuaded Colzie that the best thing for his football future was to be a track and field bystander, just as he had been for virtually his entire junior season because of COVID-19 shutdowns.
“His ankle, his hip, his back were hurt at different points during football,” Hill said. “He never could quite get right.
“It was never an injury that would keep him out of anything, but it was never, ‘Man I feel great.’ It was always a nagging something that he was playing through.”
Colzie still amassed 33 receptions for 597 yards and seven TDs, a year after collecting 34 for 867 and 14 TDs in 2019. He was rated a four-star prospect by both Rivals and 247Sports, finishing as the No. 144 overall prospect nationally and No. 16 receiver per Rivals, and Nos. 116 and 14, respectively by 247Sports.
His impromptu coaching career in track was proceeding as planned until Hill noticed one day how explosive Colzie looked in demonstrating the high jump for some of his younger teammates.
Colzie admitted he hadn’t felt that unencumbered in almost a year. They decided to have Colzie try the high jump on a March 26 meet. He went 6-4. The next meet he matched his state runner-up performance at 6-8.
Then it was time to try a running event. He only got to run the 100 once in a meet before the state meet series, that at a competition in mid-April. Colzie had been a standout 400 runner his freshman and sophomore seasons, but the coaching staff felt the 100 would be a better event pairing to keep him fresher for the high jump.
“He might have won state in the 400,” Hill said. “Based on workouts we do, we can project those times. But this was the best path for him, running the 100 and high jumping.
“He's put in the work. He’s put in the time. He's done everything as a coach you could ask him to do.
“We work out at 6:30 every morning and when it was time, he was there. You had to move Deion out of the way to get the door open. It was beautiful.”
All that will help Colzie when he arrives at Notre Dame. The lane to significant playing time looks much more wide open in 2022, when presumably boundary receivers Kevin Austin Jr. and Joe Wilkins move on after their senior seasons this fall.
But Colzie is the tallest receiver on the 2021 roster, and the speed and explosiveness he showed in another sport this spring has the Irish coaches’ attention. If his absorption of the playbook and the nuances it takes to play at the college level come quickly, he could push for a spot in the rotation.
At the very least, he seems like a strong candidate to find a spot on special teams.
“I remember when Deion showed up here the summer before his freshman year,” Hill said. “We were loosening up for some 7-on-7 work, and he had his eligibility paperwork with him.
“We said, ‘Tell you what, go over there and run a post.’ Touchdown. Like immediately. It was immediate impact.
“I’m not saying it’s going to happen just like that at Notre Dame. But Deion has worked hard enough to put himself in position for good things to happen. I can’t wait to see where this goes.”