Bombers pivot Collaros will think about game but also be thankful for opportunity


Published December 11, 2021 at 5:15 pm

HAMILTON — Winnipeg quarterback Zach Collaros’ football brain will be hard at work in advance of Sunday’s Grey Cup. But he will also be quietly giving thanks before taking the field against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“Typically, (I) probably will be thinking about a play or situation in the game or trying to visualize success,” Collaros said Saturday after Winnipeg’s final walkthrough. “At the same time, I’ll be thinking about how lucky I am to have the opportunity to play this game, saying a prayer and thanking God that I have these opportunities and be a good role model for kids.

“Thanking Him for my wife and my children. All of those kinds of things enter your mind all leading to the moment before kickoff. After that, you’re really locked into a zone.”

Collaros and the Bombers have been in the zone for much of the 2021 season. 

Winnipeg posted a CFL-best 11-3-0 record and on Friday, Collaros (outstanding player), tackle Stanley Bryant (lineman), linebacker Adam Bighill (defensive player) and Mike O’Shea (coach of the year) were honoured at the league’s awards banquet.

Winnipeg heads into the game as a 3 1/2-point favourite against a Hamilton team that will have home-field advantage playing before a Tim Hortons Field sellout of over 24,000. 

And there’s no doubt in Collaros’ mind that the Bombers are prepared to defend the title they won in 2019 when they beat the Ticats 33-12.

“You try to go into every single game that way, as prepared as you can and trusting your preparation,” he said. “That’s how you execute at a high level.

“A little bit more fine-tuning to do before that but we’ll be ready.”

Usually the night before a game, the married father of two young children prefers to relax with his family and review the game plan.

“In a hectic week like this you have to put a little more time into it,” he said. “But our coaches have done a great job of making the game plan, teaching it to us. 

“Usually, I like to go through the entire script and walkthrough one more time the night before. Sit back and relax with my wife and kids. It’s a little bit different being on the road for Grey Cup week (but) just cross our T’s and dot our I’s and get off our feet.”

Ditto for Bombers defensive lineman Willie Jefferson.

“With family and stuff being here you try to escape,” he said. “We’ve been doing football all week, we’re prepared for the game.

“Right now, trying to get away and see our family, get something good to eat and get off my feet and relax. Then try to zone into the game and get ready to play some ball.”

Jefferson said Winnipeg’s defence – the CFL’s stingiest this season – will have a simple goal Sunday.

“”We just want to go be disruptive, we want to get into the backfield and make everything hard for Dane (Ticats starter Dane Evans),” Jefferson said. “We want to try to get him off his spot, we don’t want him to get too comfortable back there setting his feet to throw.

“We also don’t want him to get outside the pocket to extend plays but we do want to get him off his spot and make him move around and be uncomfortable.”

And Jefferson left no doubt the Bombers are ready to go.

“Calm, cool, collected, locked in, focused really to play,” he said when asked about the team’s mood. “That’s where we’re at.

“The mindset we have on our team is we haven’t done anything yet and what we have done isn’t good enough and we have to work harder and we need to finish. That’s the mindset, just finish. We have one goal in mind and that’s to hoist that Cup after the game and Hamilton is in our way.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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