A season of twists, turns and trades for quarterback Zach Collaros ended with a Grey Cup victory.
Injured on the opening drive of his season, traded twice and without a live game snap for 19 weeks, Collaros helped navigate the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a 33-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Sunday in Calgary.
“It’s been a wild year,” Collaros said. “This is where you want to end up after every season, as the Grey Cup champion, so however it took to get it, it’s a lot of fun.
“We’re really excited to bring the Cup back to Winnipeg.”
In his fourth start for the Bombers since his arrival in Winnipeg at the CFL trade deadline Oct. 9, Collaros completed 17 of 23 passes for 170 yards and did not give up an interception in the game.
Winnipeg employed the one-two quarterback punch of Collaros and rushing specialist Chris Streveler that was so successful in the West semifinal win over the Calgary Stampeders, but in a slightly different way.
Streveler ran the ball 30 yards on nine carries. He also threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Harris in the second quarter and caught a 13-yard throw from receiver Darvin Adams in the third.
“Just a warrior,” Collaros said. “Selfless. He’ll do whatever is asked. He can throw it. He can run it. He can probably tackle.”
Collaros is an eight-year CFL veteran who played four seasons for the Tiger-Cats from 2014 to 2017. He was their starter in a 2014 Grey Cup loss.
A Saskatchewan Roughrider to start this season, Collaros was concussed three plays into the season opener in a helmet-to-helmet collision with Ticats linebacker Simoni Lawrence.
Lawrence was slapped with a two-game suspension. The Riders traded Collaros to the Toronto Argonauts, who subsequently dealt him to Winnipeg.
The Blue Bombers had lost starter Matt Nichols to a shoulder injury in August and subsequent season-ending surgery.
Collaros played his first game as a Bomber and his first game since the injury Oct. 25.
“I knew if I could just learn what was going on and try to stay within myself and just do my job, I thought we would be able to do good things,” said the 31-year-old from Steubenville, Ohio.
An offence that was leaning heavily on running the ball at that time with Streveler was able to expand its repertoire with Collaros’s arm and experience, while still utilizing Streveler’s skills.
“It does add another dimension to the offence,” Bomber coach Mike O’Shea acknowledged. “Given how tough Streve is, it puts defenders in a bind.
“He will lower the shoulder on you and he will get back up and keep trucking again. It does force the defence to do a few different things.”
Collaros didn’t give up an interception in his two playoff starts or the Grey Cup.
He threw the only touchdown of the West final in a 20-13 win over the Roughriders going 17-for-25 and 267 yards.
Collaros threw 11 passes for 193 yards, including a 71-yarder, and a touchdown in a 35-14 win over Calgary in the West semifinal.
The hot topic of Grey Cup week was the relationship between Collaros and Lawrence after their devastating collision to start the season.
“What are they calling it? The revenge tour?” Collaros said “We finished it. It’s over. Last show tonight.”