The Curious Case of... Zach Collaros
By Cmm3 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=109217250
In the 2021 season, Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros had a fine year. Coming back after a year off due to Covid shutting down the CFL, Collaros was named the league's MOP and won his second straight Grey Cup. But things haven't always been so good for Zach. On more than one occasion, his CFL career was left for dead but he's been able to pick himself back up and has become one of the highest paid players in the CFL, cashing in on his recent successes with Winnipeg. How did he get to this point after so much adversity with his career and his health?
Point 1 - Hamilton Tiger-Cats - Collaros came into the league after being signed by the Toronto Argonauts in 2012, where he became Ricky Ray's main backup. When Ray was hurt, Collaros got his chance to play in 2013 and was very good. With Ray coming back from injury and Collaros wanting to be a starting quarterback of his own team, he left the Argos as a free agent and went down the QEW and joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In his first season with the Ti-Cats in 2014, he lead the team to a 9-9 record and got them to the Grey Cup, where they lost to the Calgary Stampeders. In 2015, he was off to an even better start, leading the 'Cats to an 8-3 record and was leading the league in nearly all QB stats until he tore his ACL and was shelved for the rest of the season. At the time, he was widely considered the favorite to be the league's Most Outstanding Player. The following 2016 season, he was still rehabbing his knee and did not get into a regular season game until Week 8. In 2017, Collaros was healthy and named the team's starting quarterback again. He got off to a horrendous 0-8 start and was benched in favour of Jeremiah Massoli, who immediately had success. That was pretty much the end of Zach in Hamilton.
Point 2 - Saskatchewan Roughriders (twice giving up on him). In January 2018, the Ti-Cats traded Collaros to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who were in need of a steady quarterback after going through guys such as Kevin Glenn, Brandon Bridge and even a washed up Vince Young after they parted ways with Darian Durant. Riders coach, Chris Jones, was convinced Collaros would do better with a change of scenery. In Week 2 of the 2018 season, Collaros suffered his first of three concussions with the Riders as he was knocked out of a game against the Ottawa Red Blacks. He missed a number of games but was able to play in 14 and the Riders went on to a 12-6 season. Collaros missed the Western Semi-Final game because after his second concussion of the season and the Riders went to lose that game 23-18 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Riders were prepared to move on without Collaros in the 2019 season and were going hard after Calgary Stampeders quarterback, Bo Levi Mitchell. Collaros' career looked like it was finished again. When Mitchell re-signed with Calgary and other big-name free agent quarterbacks signing with other teams - Mike Reilly going to B.C. and Collaros' former teammate Trevor Harris going to Edmonton, the Riders reluctantly re-signed Collaros and announced him their starting quarterback. There was much criticism for the signing with many saying it was immoral to let Collaros play again as it was risking his life and long term health. What happened in the first regular season game would seem to prove their point. The Roughriders sparingly played Collaros during the preseason, not wanting him to take too many hits. But the 2019 regular season started out much like the 2018 season. However, instead of being knocked out by concussion in the second game of the season, Collaros was knocked out of the game on the third play of the first game of the season, thanks to a head hunting hit by former teammate, Simoni Lawrence. Collaros re-habbed with the team and helped his successor, Cody Fajardo, with breaking down film and game planning. When Fajardo's success made it clear that Collaros was expendable to the Riders again - they traded him to the Toronto Argonauts. He never got into a game with the Argos. When the Blue Bombers ran into quarterbacking injury troubles, the Argos traded Collaros to them hoping that it was more of a loan and that they could re-sign him back to Toronto when he became a free agent at the end of the season. Collaros was on his way to his third team of the 2019 season.
Point 3 - Winnipeg Blue Bombers - Resurrection! The Bombers were struggling mightily. Their starter, Matt Nichols, was out for the rest of the year and they had lost four of five games with Chris Streveler at quarterback replacing him. Desperate to get back on the right track, and with Streveler injured, they turned to Collaros just weeks after trading for him and started him in the final game of the regular season. Collaros went on an amazing run, winning that game, the Western Semi-Final against the Calgary Stampeders, the Western Final against his former team, who gave up on him earlier in the season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then the Grey Cup, beating another former team that gave up on him and against the man who knocked him out earlier in the season, Simoni Lawrence. A movie has got to be made out of this story - it's too unbelievable to be true. After the 2020 season was cancelled, Collaros and the Blue Bombers repeated as Grey Cup champs in 2021, practically winning from pillar-to-post in their quest to the Cup. Collaros was due to be a free agent in 2022 and the Bombers re-signed him and compensated him well to stay. After seeing his career hit rock bottom three times, he seems to be getting better with age.