TORONTO – Zach Collaros is not your traditional drop-back pocket passer.
His skill set is very much a contrast to that of injured starting quarterback Ricky Ray, who has supplanted himself amongst the Canadian Football League’s all-time greats as a result of his illustrious body of work from inside the pocket.
It can even be difficult to comprehend how such different quarterbacks can effectively execute the same offensive system. When Ricky Ray injured his knee against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field in week four, Argos fans held their collective breathe, expressing overwhelming concern regarding the health of their star quarterback.
However, within the confines of the Argonauts locker room, a confident Zach Collaros was deeply ingrained in preparations for his first career CFL start, a cross-divisional tilt with the surging B.C. Lions and their potent defensive unit.
“Our mentality is that we really don’t worry about who’s not in,” stated Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich in the aftermath of his team’s 38-12 victory over the B.C. Lions on Tuesday night. “We know we have good enough players on this roster. I don’t care who’s in there, I expect to be able to win.”
Collaros became the first Argonauts quarterback to win his debut start in the Canadian Football League since offensive coordinator Marcus Brady achieved the same feat in 2003, collecting a 24-14 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Understandably, the Argonauts’ sophomore pivot showed signs of nerves early on during Tuesday’s night’s game, but settled in to enjoy a historic first start as he completed 21 of 25 pass attempts for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
The only blemish on Collaros’ nearly perfect stat line was a fumble in the first quarter, a minor miscue that by the conclusion of the game was a mere footnote in a spectacular CFL regular season debut.
“He made a lot of plays and we knew he would make a mistake or two, which he did,” explained Milanovich. “It seemed like after that, Zach fell into rhythm and played the way he’s capable of playing. That’s what you hope for. You know they’re going to make mistakes and the good ones are able to put that behind them and come back.”
“Just a little mishap,” remarked Collaros. “It happens, it’s football.”
However, rest assured, there is no quarterback controversy here. Collaros accepts his role with the Double Blue and is honoured to have the opportunity to learn from three-time Grey Cup champion quarterback Ricky Ray.
“We have the best quarterback in the league in Ricky Ray so I’ll sit behind a hall of famer,” responded Collaros when asked if he expects to be under centre the next time the Argonauts hit the field following the team’s bye week. “That’s fine (with me).”
At 24 years of age, Collaros’ best years are still ahead of him and Tuesday’s performance provided just a glimpse of what the future may hold for this budding CFL star.
“I think Zach has a great future,” said Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich. “Obviously, we had a lot of confidence in Zach. We handed him the ball and he showed everybody why.”
Perhaps, the most impressive aspect of Collaros’ performance on Tuesday night was his poise and composure outside of the pocket as he eluded a stern Lions’ pass rush on several different occasions while consistently putting the football in a position where only his receivers could make a play.
“That first play by Jason Barnes was, I thought, possibly the turning point in the game and Jason just went up and stole it,” said Milanovich reflecting upon Collaros’ 21-yard touchdown pass to Jason Barnes in the second quarter.
“Zach, he’s a playmaker,” said Argos’ offensive lineman Wayne Smith. “He did a good job keeping plays alive with his feet and making things happen.”
All in all, Tuesday night was certainly a memorable moment for Collaros. With his dad and grandparents among the 20,064 in attendance at Rogers Centre, the Argonauts’ second-year signal caller was placed in the spotlight and truly enjoyed every single minute of it.
“Beating a team like the B.C. Lions is awesome and hopefully we can build upon it (as a team),” said Collaros. “I was having fun out there. It was a good (experience).”