Collaros signs with Hamilton

HAMILTON, Ontario – Former Steubenville Big Red standout Zach Collaros has signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL.

He is signed through the 2016 season.

“Zach is a very talented quarterback with a great future in front of him. He’s a dedicated, proven winner and a natural leader with tremendous character. We are very excited that he has chosen to join our football team,” General Manager and Head Coach Kent Austin said during Friday’s introductory press conference.

“We have the privilege of having not only a talented young football player, but an unbelievable person, highly dedicated, highly commited, a strong desire to win, a proven winner at every level that he’s played.

“I think he’s an indivudual who will pay the price in all the areas to be great and lead us to championships here and a guy that I’m very much looking forward to coaching. He is a guy who will fit perfectly with our football team, a welcome addition to our locker room and will be very endearing to our players who are already here.”

Collaros comes to the Tiger-Cats from the Toronto Argonauts. He took over for an injured Ricky Ray and led the Argos to a 5-2 record.

The impressive part of that was four consecutive wins on the road, the first time that has been done by one quarterback in CFL history.

“I think it’s very important to try to determine the quality of the player especially in tough situations,” Austin said. “That was about as tough a situation I think as probably any quarterback faced last year with the starting guy going down and then going on the road.

“Being able to quarterback your football team to those victories proves he’s a winner and he’s proven it in tough situations.”

He was named the CFL’s Player of the Week after going 25-of-36 for 330 yards and four touchdowns in a win in Calgary in Week 13.

“I’m very excited to join the Tiger-Cats. This team has all the pieces in place for success now and in the future,” said Collaros, who went 30-1 as the Big Red starting quarterback, including 30 victories in a row and the 2005 and 2006 Division III state titles. “I can’t wait to work with the players, coaches and staff in Hamilton and play in front of an outstanding fan base at Tim Hortons Field.”

Collaros completed 66 percent of his passes last season for 14 scores and 2,316 yards in 18 games. He joined Toronto as a free agent in 2012 and earned a Grey Cup ring.

He replaces Henry Burris, who was released two weeks ago. Burris threw for 10,292 yards and 67 touchdowns in 36 games over two seasons.

“I’d like to thank Jim Barker and Scott Milanovich in Toronto,” said Collaros. “I wouldn’t be in this league right now if it wasn’t for those guys. Also, Jason Moss, Marcus Brady and especially Ricky Ray. I kind of lucked out coming into this league with such a great group around me. I was able to learn a lot of things from them that translated to the field.

“This was a no-brainer for me once I talked to coach Austin on the phone.”

Collaros was a first-team all-Big East player at Cincinnati in 2010. He finished his Bearcats career with 6,272 yards passing and 51 touchdonws. He also ran the ball 268 times for 1,240 yards and 16 more scores.

“We signed Zach for a reason,” said Austin. “We believe we have a proven player, a proven starter. The one thing about Zach is one of the first things he said to me on the phone is ‘Coach, I’d don’t expect to be given anything. I’ll earn what I get.’ That’s exactly the type of player that we have.

“We don’t distinguish a lot between starters and backups on this football team. Everybody we require we expect to play at a high level and Zach will have every opportunity to be our guy.”

Austin said Collaros’ background with Big Red, Cincinnati and Toronto played a part in his decision.

“He comes from a background of a heavy dose of preparation, not just with Scott but throughout his career,” said Austin. “That was a key attribute that we value very highly here.”

Burris is a two-time Grey Cup champion, a Grey Cup MVP and league MVP. The 15-year veteran has over 50,000 career passing yards.

“I’m the kind of guy who’s going to pay the price during the week and in the off-season so that the results do come on the field,” Collaros said. “Do I want to be a starter? Do I think I can be a starter? Obviously.

“I thought that two years ago when I got to Toronto and Ricky Ray was there. That’s just my personality. I’m just anxious to get to practice and really just to get up here and learn from the staff.”