Superstar tight end Travis Kelce believes college roommate Zach Collaros ‘could play in the NFL’

Photo courtesy: CFL

Almost left for dead after a string of serious injuries a few years ago, Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros now has a shiny Grey Cup ring for his collection and is firmly leading the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player race six games into the 2021 season.

It’s been a career comeback for the ages, but there are at least some in football who believe Collaros has not yet peaked as a player. Namely superstar NFL tight end Travis Kelce, who firmly believes that the Winnipeg signal caller could deliver similar success south of the border if given the chance.

“He’s an unbelievable player and I’ve just been excited for his success,” Kelce told Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun on Friday. “I think he could play in the NFL if he really wanted to give it a run but he seems to be happy up there in the Canadian league. It’s awesome to see him have success and be a Grey Cup champion and be on the top of the mountain up there in Canada.”

Earning praise from a player of Kelce’s stature is a major endorsement of Collaros’ ability, but the Kansas City Chiefs tight end may not exactly be an unbiased evaluator. The two were roommates for three years during their time at the University of Cincinnati and remain close friends years later, as each has reached the pinnacle of their profession in different countries.

“I call his family my family, and vice versa. We’ll probably be doing this far beyond our competitive years in terms of staying in contact. It’s just cool to see his success pan out up there in Canada,” Kelce says, explaining why he never misses an opportunity to hype up his friend.

While he now catches passes from NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, the six-time Pro Bowler has a special place in his heart for his college starter. Kelce only caught 13 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns from Collaros as a junior with the Bearcats, but his roommate made a much bigger impact on the team.

“One of the first times he got into a game in Cincinnati, we were playing South Florida on a Thursday or Friday night, and his first two plays didn’t go as planned but on third and long he took off for about a 78-yard touchdown,” he said. “Boom, the entire world knew who Zach Collaros was and his highlights were all over ESPN.”

“That year, what he did to the Big East, and what he did for our team … he willed us to win for a lot of games and everybody rallied behind him because of what a good competitor he is and just who he is as a person,” Kelce added.

“The entire team loved him, man.”

Collaros spent two and a half years as Cincinnati’s starter, throwing for 6,278 yards, 51 touchdowns and 26 interceptions, while adding another 809 yards and 16 scores along the ground. That led to an undrafted free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Collaros was released among the final cuts and made his way to Toronto, where he proved himself as the backup to future Hall of Famer Ricky Ray during a Grey Cup season in 2012 before heading to Hamilton as a full-time starter.

Kelce broke out the season after Collaros graduated and was selected in the third round, 63rd overall in 2013 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He quickly established himself as one of the best tight ends in football, catching 618 passes for 7,957 yards and 50 touchdowns. In 2020, Kelce set the single-season NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,416 on 105 receptions in 15 games to go with 11 touchdowns.

While Collaros’ road to success has been rockier, both players claimed championships in 2019. Kelce cheered on his quarterback as his late season resurgence secured the Bombers their first Grey Cup in 29 years. Two months later, he won Super Bowl LIV alongside Patrick Mahomes and Canadian offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

The fresh bling for the pair, along with Super Bowl victories from fellow housemates Jason Kelce and Derek Wolfe, means that a total of five pro football championship rings are owned by Collaros and his college cohabitants.

Despite blossoming careers and varying levels of stardom, the bonds made by those teammates will never fade and Kelce will remain a CFL fan so long as Collaros is balling out.