October 18, 2022

In My Words | Zach Collaros

Let me open by saying a day like this and signing a contract extension is huge for me and my family because of the stability and peace of mind it provides us for the next few years.

I’m so grateful and thankful for that.

When I first got here in October of ’19 there was so much uncertainty. Everybody was worried about my health, but there was never an issue with my wife Nicole and I on that. I thought that if I did get an opportunity, I would play well.

But so many things must work out the right way for me to be in the position I’m in to sign this deal right now. And it’s all about everybody else that’s here. That’s what I want to stress, and it’s also why I’m uncomfortable sometimes with the attention that comes on a day like this. It’s almost like I have Impostor Syndrome when I’m asked to speak about myself.

Obviously, keeping our team intact for the most part since 2019 has been huge in our success. Keeping the guys in front of me on the O-line intact – keeping Stan and Paddy and Yosh and Mikey and those guys, our receivers – has been big, too. It’s Buck letting my creativity to be a part of the offence.

And with Wade and Kyle overseeing things and Osh steering the ship, it’s been so educational for me from a big-picture standpoint – not just about football, but about life. It’s just been so awesome.

There are a lot of layers as to why this has been such a good fit for me. It’s more than just preparation. It’s just so easy to come to work every day when you’re around a lot of people you love and have respect for and that goes for this entire building, not just the locker room. Everybody that loves to be here has found that.

Whenever I’m asked to give a talk or speak about football or about a personal accolade I’ve received it’s about my teammates and the organization. Woody Hayes at Ohio State always used to say, ‘You win with people.’ I’ve said it a million times, but the people here have made it an easy fit for me. It’s just a lot like the culture I grew up in – there’s a respect and love for one another.

And having such a strong wife who is able and willing to move out here for six months and then move back to our home base for six months obviously plays a huge part. So, again, signing this contract extension is about way more than me.

I was thinking about story from my high school days that might explain why humility is so important to me.

I had so many outstanding mentors, teachers and coaches back then. And I can remember we had these shirts for training camps which read ‘TEAM’ across the chest and then ‘me’ below it in much smaller letters.

Anyway, I can remember when I made the basketball team as a freshman – that was a big deal at the time because it didn’t happen very often. I played a little bit in my first game and had eight points or something. After the game a reporter asked how I thought I played, and I gave an answer – and I still remember this because of the reaction afterward – where it was ‘I did this, and I did that.’ Our baseball coach, who I was terrified of at the time, was also the athletic director. He pulled me into his office the next day and goes, ‘Hey… just so you know, it’s never ‘I’, it’s ‘We.’ It’s always ‘We’ and I don’t want to read another article where you say, ‘I did this, and I did that.’ It’s ‘We.’

That’s always stuck with me. I was 14.

That’s the foundation here, too, and that’s why it resonates so much.

When I first met Osh, I could see that in him. It’s not necessarily something I instantly gravitated toward, it was just more an observation: ‘All he wants to do is win.’ It’s more about just doing your job and doing it for your teammates. That was something that was fostered in us all the way back to Grade 7 back home and then every coach I had through college, that was the environment they tried to build, too. Organizationally we all speak the same language. We see things the same way.

All this isn’t to say it wasn’t like this in Toronto or Hamilton, it’s just that Osh is so genuine about it. He’s not faking it.

We’re the same that way, and in not liking the attention, too. Today will be painfully awkward when we see each other and shake hands after I officially sign the contract. He knows this spotlight stuff can be painful for me.

He’s probably just going to say, ‘I love ya’ and then we move on. Then it’s simply time to get back to work again. And that’s perfect.

– Zach Collaros