Beautiful family, back-to-back Grey Cup rings, a shiny Most Outstanding Player trophy on his shelf, and the highest paid contract in the CFL, you might say that Zach Collaros has it all.
In a sport where you need to stay hungry, it is only natural to question how the Blue Bombers’ starting quarterback is staying motivated after gorging himself on success. But as Collaros and his Winnipeg teammates gear up for a run at a rare Grey Cup three-peat, finding fuel for their competitive fire has never been an issue.
“For me personally, I’ve always kind of embraced the role of the underdog. I wasn’t really highly recruited and all those things, so I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder and I think a lot of the guys on our team are built the same way,” Collaros explained in an appearance on 980 CJME’s The Green Zone.
“Talk to Adam Bighill or Willie Jefferson, you can go on down the line. Even Stanley Bryant, who is maybe going to go down as one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever play our game, but he comes from humble beginnings as well. I think we’re a group of people that are built that way, with the chip on their shoulder, so I don’t think it’s going to be hard for us to find motivation.”
Nonetheless, it has been a topic of conversation among members of the Bombers’ veteran core. As many negotiated returns to Winnipeg this off-season in order to chase a chance to become the first team to win three straight CFL titles since the Edmonton dynasty of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the internal chatter on the topic was already helping to set the tone.
“During the entire free agency period, the group of guys that were signing back were all in a group chat saying: ‘We’ve got to continue to find an edge.’ It’s been in the back of our heads really since the week after the Grey Cup celebrations,” Collaros acknowledged. “I think a lot of us knew we wanted to be back here. It’s hard in our profession to not think into the future and get excited about the next season, so we’ve been talking about it.”
The Bombers can no longer claim to be slept on by fans or the media, they have rightfully claimed the status as the league’s flagship franchise and enter the season as the unanimous Grey Cup favourite according to Ontario sportsbooks.
However, the roster has undergone serious changes this offseason, with workhorse Canadian running back Andrew Harris and league-leading receiver Kenny Lawler highlighting a list of departures that also includes Darvin Adams, Steven Richardson, Alden Darby, Drew Desjarlais, DeAundre Alford, and Jonathan Kongbo.
Those who remain will have to pick up the slack while drawing their edge from chips on the shoulder established long before they were champions.
“It really comes down to just doing our jobs and trying to do them at as high a level as possible,” Collaros added. “I think we have the right group of people to do that, but it’s the CFL, it’s football, the game changes every week and year to year, especially with the one-year contracts. It makes it that much more difficult, but we’re really excited for the season.”