The helmet-to-helmet hit delivered by Simoni Lawrence on Zach Collaros changed the course of Cody Fajardo’s career.
It could have been a fateful night on Thursday, June 13 for the veteran quarterback. Instead, Collaros recovered but by that time Fajardo had proven he could be a starter in the CFL with Saskatchewan.
“You never want the guy in front of you to get hurt. I wouldn’t have the house I’m in today, I clearly wouldn’t have the contract I have today, and I might be out of the CFL to tell you the truth,” Fajardo said on 620 CKRM’s The SportsCage.
“Maybe Zach goes on, plays the whole year, plays well, and I’m a backup/short yardage guy. There comes a time in every guys’ career when you’re 28-years-old and you can only do backup/short yardage for so long.”
Fajardo lost his first CFL start against Ottawa in a shootout 44-41 decision to the Redblacks. He threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns while completing 79 percent of his passes and added a rushing major. After going 3-1 the next four weeks, general manager Jeremy O’Day traded Collaros to Toronto for a fourth-round pick.
“That situation could’ve been so much worse. Zach could be out the rest of his career. Simoni could be kicked out of the league. I could’ve came in, played terribly and been cut,” Fajardo said.
“You see three top-tier guys in this league who ended up prospering through a really tough situation. The CFL won in that situation to prove that it was able to withstand such a monumental moment between three guys. It really did benefit the league as well as all three of us.”
Lawrence set a single-game CFL record for tackles with 17 in Hamilton’s 33-13 victory in The Peg during Week 16. The 2019 league all-star set a single-season career-high by recording 98 tackles in just 15 games and helped lead the Ticats to a franchise-best 15-3 record.
Collaros was sent to Winnipeg at the trade deadline where he fit in immediately and guided the Bombers to a 4-0 record as a starter on the way to hoisting the Grey Cup to end last season. It was the first CFL championship of Collaros’ career and came against Hamilton, the team who provided the first chance for him to be a franchise QB.
“It was a blessing for both of us because Zach went on to win a Grey Cup and finally got a ring on his finger as a starting quarterback. It was the first time you see a situation like that where both players ended up on a positive note,” Fajardo said.
“Usually you see a guy lose his job, then he’s out of the league and never recovers. I’m happy for Zach winning a Grey Cup because now both of us reap benefits in a terrible situation.”
As for Fajardo, he led the Riders to a first-place regular season finish in the West Division and earned a multi-year contract extension as the face of the green and white in Saskatchewan. Fajardo was named the CFL’s all-star quarterback and quickly emerged as a charismatic, beloved man in the wheat province and coast to coast in Canada.