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So many of us are pining right now for a return to ‘normal’ or even a semblance of what once was. We miss our routines and our distractions. We miss a summertime that should have been filled with festivals, with concerts, with folks gathering in large masses to celebrate, to cheer or even to boo.
Zach Collaros has those moments, too.
And then the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback will glance over at his daughter Sierra and his wife Nicole and think…
“We all get frustrated at times and then I see them and it’s like, ‘OK, this world isn’t so bad,’” began Collaros in a chat with bluebombers.com on Friday. “We’re just taking it day by day here, just like everybody else. But we’re doing great. The baby is three months old tomorrow and my wife’s great, she’s a natural. It’s been good to be with them every day.
“Being a father changes the way you look at the world. It’s not just what’s important to you, but the importance of what’s important to you. It’s been what I always thought it would be and more.”
That’s become a common theme during this global pandemic. It’s forced a lot of us to rethink our priorities, to undo the blinders for a bigger-picture take of what is unfolding not just through living with the COVID-19 virus, but also the important anti-racism rallies that continue to take place all over the planet.
Collaros is as well read and informed as any player in the Canadian Football League and right now he’s waiting, like every other player and fan, for some ideas on a return to play in 2020.
Asked about the hub city concept – where all nine teams would work under a bubble in one location – the veteran pivot, and new father, offered an honest answer.
“It would be tough on everybody. Everybody would have to leave their family,” said Collaros. “That’s the hardest part for everybody, just waiting for some clarity. It’s not just the situation the CFL finds itself in, but everything. We, as players, haven’t heard a lot about the hub city concept. That’s not fun, but if that’s what the league figures out… I do know there are a lot of people working very hard to get this thing going. I do have a lot of faith in that. We’re trying to trust the process and if the hub city is the way we go it will be tough on guys, but it always could be worse. You have to put it in perspective. It’s definitely a conversation my wife and I will have – we haven’t had it yet because it’s just rumours – but we will talk about it and be realistic about it.
“Whoever they let into the bubble – players, coaches, staff – it will be something we all have to deal with. But, hopefully, it will be a positive experience and something we all look back on and talk about over a few beers one day.”
Part of that answer comes simply from maturity. Collaros is turning 32 next month and has seen action with four CFL teams – Toronto, Hamilton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg – since his arrival in 2012.
He’s been through a lot, too, both mentally and physically and the grind of recovering from injury forces a man to live in the moment, control what he can control. With that in mind, Collaros bought a net for his backyard to keep working on his passing skills and recently during a visit to his in-laws had his brother-in-law, Adam Walsh, run routes for him.
“He’s a paramedic now, but he used to play rugby and he’s a great athlete,” said Collaros.”And if there’s nobody available I’ll bring the net or throw at the soccer goal and try to hit the corners. It’s kind of a pain in the ass chasing the ball every four throws, but I guess I can use it as conditioning.
“Everybody’s dealing with it the best they can. But I was talking to one of my neighbours the other day and he said, ‘You must be going crazy.’ I am. You can only compete against yourself in your garage with dumbbells for so long.
“Usually this time of year you’re out there competing and that void is not filled right now. I said to him once it comes to retire I’m really going to have to find something I can still be as passionate and competitive about. I’ve always known that, but this has been right in your face.”
The Bombers would have been four games into their 2020 schedule by now. And, for Collaros, that would have meant he’d have finished his first full training camp with his new club.
That’s no small thing, either. You see, for as much as Collaros and his wife have celebrated the birth of their first child in the last few months, it was last November – while leading the Bombers to their first Grey Cup championship since 1990 – that he enjoyed a career rebirth.
“That’s been the most disappointing part – missing camp and starting a season with the guys,” he said. “The way things ended last year, not just from a team perspective but for me personally, and ending on such a high note.
“I really felt like I was part of a team and that locker room and coaching staff was just so strong. It was just so awesome to be a part of it for that five-six weeks and then when I re-signed I was so looking forward to training camp and running out of that tunnel for the first game and defending the Grey Cup.
“We’re all really excited about that. It will be a different vibe if and when we get to that, but I still like our chances if it happens… when it happens.”