Zach Collaros, Always Getting Back Up

Zach Collaros is the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player for 2021. And, it comes as no real surprise at the moment.

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But, I still remember watching him from the stands in 2017 in Hamilton. It was hard to figure if he’d ever play again for the Ti-Cats or even if he’d get a chance elsewhere. He was on the deep bench and still behaving like a pro and gentleman. A good teammate. From the stands at Tim Horton’s Field, it seemed, well, sad.

Zach Collaros, formerly of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats – JOHANY JUTRAS / CFL.CA

When he got a shot in Saskatchewan, I recall thinking “good, he deserves it.” But he got smacked by Simoni Lawrence and went out on injury. It cost him the job. Cody Fajardo was in. Later Collaros got a short stint in Toronto before the Bombers, in what seemed like maybe a desperate move, gave him a shot in 2019.

Related: What Should the Roughriders Do With Cody Fajardo?

It paid off.  He got a Grey Cup and looked good doing it. He played well, he scrambled, he made throws.  He got it done. Perhaps most important, he got smacked around and got back up.

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It’s not that he ever was soft. That’s an overused term.  But, he did seem injury-prone. And, sometimes, owing to the seriousness of the injuries, he seemed unsure. When he scrambled or ran the ball downfield, I’d get uneasy.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros looks on before the ball is snapped during first half football action in the 107th Grey Cup against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, November 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

There is a difference between “can this guy take a hit” and “can this guy take another hit.” How close he was to the end of a career, I don’t know. I have my suspicions. It sure seemed close.

There’s also this other thing. It’s when others doubt you. It can’t erase a player’s talent, but it can overwhelm it. Some of those things seem like years ago because they were. But it wasn’t that many years, and there was no guarantee his career would survive.

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Because I watched his demeanour so closely in Hamilton it always remained of interest to me. I suspect there’s more of a story there than anybody knows. Certainly, more than he’s ever likely to say.

Zach Collaros, you’re 2021 CFL MOP. Salute!

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