Bad blood may make for great sports rivalries, but don’t expect any between Tiger-Cats’ head coach Orlondo Steinauer and Blue Bombers’ quarterback Zach Collaros on Sunday.
The pair will be meeting in the Grey Cup for the second straight season, but their long history extends far beyond these two meetings, back to when they were friends, not foes. In fact, Steinauer had such an impact on the career of Collaros that when the quarterback accepted the Most Outstanding Player trophy on Friday, he took the time to thank his championship opponent.
“It reminds me why I do this,” a clearly touched Steinauer said Saturday, a little more than 24 hours before his defence will attempt to make his old friend very uncomfortable.
“He’s just one of the good guys. I used to watch him power clean when we were going to meetings as a fourth string quarterback in Toronto and then competed against him. Then of course we played together and we kind of built our bond.”
The two first met back in 2012, when Collaros was a CFL rookie and Steinauer was still a DB coach with the Toronto Argonauts, winning a Grey Cup together that season. The coach departed the next year to become defensive coordinator in Hamilton, where he soon had to defend against Collaros as the Cincinnati product made a name for himself as a future starter.
That would come to fruition when Collaros signed in Hamilton, joining Steinauer once again. The early years proved successful, but as the quarterback battled injuries that would eventually derail his Ticats’ tenure, he built a bond with the defensive coach.
“It was probably at its peak when he was here and it kind of started when he was injured. He’d come into our defensive meeting rooms and whatnot,” Steinauer explained. “We just had a common respect from competing.”
The pair kept in touch as Steinauer departed for a stint at Fresno State and Collaros was later traded to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but their paths crossed again at the 2019 Grey Cup, when a rejuvenated Collaros waxed the now-Hamilton head coach’s defence to claim his first ring as a starter.
He will try to do the same again this Sunday, with Steinauer doing his very best to prevent it, but their burgeoning rivalry will always be founded on mutual respect. The fact that Collaros took the time to thank his old coach upon reaching the pinnacle of his profession is an incredible testament to that.
“When I ran into him, he did shake my hand firm and didn’t let go for a while and thanked me. It meant a lot,” Steinauer said. “He was very deserving of the award and I’m super proud of him.”