WINNIPEG — For Zach Collaros, his weeks usually consisted of early mornings and late nights, spending time at the facility, honing his craft. However, the pandemic has changed things, and with the birth of his daughter, Sierra, the new father has been able to spend more time than ever at home with his family.
“It’s obviously been an adjustment for everyone in this past year or so,” Collaros said to BlueBombers.com. “But we’re spending a lot of time together, which has been a blessing for me and Nicole as well, to be able to share every moment with Sierra since she’s been born. The silver lining of all this has been that for sure. It’s just been an amazing thing to be there every step of the way.”
Like every player in the Canadian Football League, the 32-year-old Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback is chomping at the bit to get back on the field in 2021, and when they get that chance, the players on Winnipeg will be looking to make the most of the opportunity.
2019 started off on the worst possible foot for Collaros. He was named the starter of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but during the first series of the season, a hit by Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence would, unfortunately, sideline Collaros for a bulk of the season.
The emergence of Cody Fajardo in Saskatchewan saw Collaros moved to Toronto and then Winnipeg ahead of the CFL’s trade deadline.
Collaros returned in Week 20 of the season and led the Bombers to a victory over the rival Calgary Stampeders. He continued under centre for Winnipeg the rest of the way, helping the team to a Grey Cup championship — and snapping a 29-year drought in the process.
With the turnover that teams generally experience during a CFL off-season, it was a question as to whether the Bombers could maintain its core heading into 2020.
The Bombers as a whole will look a bit different than the championship-winning squad in 2019, but the main pieces on the offensive side are still in place. Darvin Adams re-upped to stick with the organization, and he’ll be flanked by the likes of Drew Wolitarsky, Kenny Lawler, and Rasheed Bailey. Of course, Grey Cup Most Valuable Player and Canadian Andrew Harris will also be back, looking to light the league on fire again in 2021.
But the two-QB system won’t quite be the same. Chris Streveler caught the eye of the NFL following the 2019 season, and he was able to become the backup for the Arizona Cardinals this past year. However, the biggest change may be the departure of offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice, who became the new head coach of the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
In his place, the Bombers promoted Buck Pierce, who has been a part of the team’s coaching staff since 2014, serving as a running backs coach before moving to quarterbacks coach under Mike O’Shea.
“Before we knew that the (2020) season was going to be cancelled, I was very involved just in terms of meeting with Buck to discuss the things he likes to do and things he’s done in the past and obviously things that I like to run,” Collaros said. “The thing that I really love and respect about Buck is that he’s always trying to grow. His mind and philosophy have been shaped by some great coaches. But every coach can have their own philosophy so it’s really cool to learn under him and throw my opinion in there — sometimes it’s something he agrees with, sometimes it’s not but it’s always a healthy conversation.
“I’ve learned a lot through this pandemic about our system and ways that we can make it efficient, and Buck and the coaching staff have done a lot of great work.”
The team was set to defend its championship in 2020, but they had to wait a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But when the Blue and Gold do take the field to start off their defence this year, Collaros said the team will be ready from the jump.
“We’ve had such a long layoff so everyone is itching to get back at it,” Collaros said. “I was on a call with a bunch of the guys last week and we were just talking about the (107th Grey Cup) game and I can’t believe how long ago it was. It seems like it was yesterday. So (O’Shea) isn’t going to have to walk in the locker room and give us a rah-rah speech. Our first day back in pads in the middle of the summer — whenever that day comes — I think guys will be ready to hit somebody.”
The off-season is nearly wrapped and training camp gets closer with every passing day. When it’s time to step in between those lines again, Collaros and the Bombers will have the chance to be the first team since the Montreal Alouettes to capture back-to-back Grey Cups.