Bombers' Goltz will never forget deceased friend

Bombers QB Justin Goltz will never forget the impact former teammate and friend Andy Collins had on...

Bombers QB Justin Goltz will never forget the impact former teammate and friend Andy Collins had on him. Collins died in August 2011. (QMI Agency/CHRIS PROCAYLO)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:32 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Justin Goltz believes there’s a future for him in Winnipeg, that one day he’ll be slinging passes for the Blue and Gold.

The fourth-string quarterback, who has dressed in plenty of games over the past two seasons due to Buck Pierce’s injuries, will be in uniform once again on Monday in Montreal. Pierce is out with a concussion, and Goltz, the team’s developmental quarterback, as it calls him, will be on the sidelines once again.

Right there with him, even though he passed away 14 months ago, will be Andy Collins. Goltz will never forget the impact his former teammate and friend had on him while they were at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

“I’m trying to live out a dream for two of us now,” Goltz said. “Andy was my mentor, kind of my big brother in college. He was an incredible athlete with an incredible work ethic. He laid a foundation for me.”

Collins transferred from Oregon to Occidental when the Ducks wanted to make him a safety. He played at Occidental for three seasons, and they were 27-0 in games he started. When Collins was a junior, Goltz arrived on campus from his Michigan home as a freshman. Collins welcomed him with open arms, even though Goltz was technically the competition.

“I distinctly remember walking on the practice field,” Goltz said. “He was like, ‘This guy’s the future of Occidental College.’ He was just a very good, supportive guy. A great Christian, a man of God.”

They became fast friends and kept their friendship going after Collins graduated and got a tryout with the New York Giants, which was quite exciting for a small NCAA Division III school. Collins was unable to stick with the Giants, but he kept the dream alive for Goltz.

“(Occidental) wasn’t necessarily the best path to play pro football,” Goltz said, “and I saw him do it and I thought, ‘Why couldn’t I do it?’ So I just kind of followed in his footsteps and worked my ass off and I put in the work and was able to go to minicamp with Detroit.

“Nobody was happier for me than him. The dude was just an inspiration.”

Goltz joined the Bombers late in 2010 and was invited back to training camp in 2011. He was fourth on the depth chart and didn’t want to stick around on the practice roster, so he went back to the U.S. to look for playing time. When Joey Elliott suffered a torn ACL in Week 3, Goltz was brought back.

Collins, meanwhile, got married just after Goltz returned to Winnipeg. Collins’ wife, Brooke Olzendam, was a sideline reporter for CBS, and Collins decided he was going to get a job in the real world after bouncing around indoor leagues for a while.

He and his wife were still living in a hotel in Florida because they hadn’t found a house yet. Collins went down to the fitness centre on Aug. 1, 2011, and suffered a fatal heart attack while running on a treadmill. He was 27 years old. He had been married for 10 days.

“It was surreal, because Andy’s damn near super human,” Goltz said of getting that phone call. “The guy is stronger than anybody I ever met, faster than anybody I ever met.”

It turned out the arteries around Collins’ heart were abnormally small. That’s why it ultimately gave out. Goltz was 23 years old, and one of his best friends had just died of a heart attack.

“When he passed away it was a big point in my life, a big eye-opener,” Goltz said. “I felt an obligation to try and live a dream for the both of us.”

Trying to live a football dream for two people doesn’t pay the bills, but it is a big reason why he’s continuing to pursue his football dreams.

“It’s a huge factor,” he said. “I kind of take it as a burden to do it for the both of us at this point.”

The Bombers have shown their faith in Goltz by putting him on either the one-game injured list or the four-man reserve this season when he hasn’t dressed, meaning he still received his full salary no matter what. Some are calling for Goltz to get a start or two down the stretch since the Bombers are all but out of playoff contention at 3-10.

“I think I do have a solid future in Winnipeg,” Goltz said. “Obviously it’s pretty cloudy right now. I think they had an agenda coming into this year to kind of figure out who would be the successor in the future. I was kind of the developmental guy, and they told me that from the beginning. I understand my role here, but at the same time I’ve been here for two years and I’m very confident in my abilities.

“I’m not the one to speak up or speak against anything that they tell me, and they’ve been very loyal and very honest with me from the beginning, and everything they’ve told me has come to fruition. So day by day I just continue to work hard. I know eventually I’m going to get a chance and hopefully prove them right with my abilities and show the fans of Winnipeg why I’m here. I think my future here is bright. Eventually people will see that.”

Occidental College retired Collins’ No. 1 on Saturday night in Los Angeles before their game, the first time it has bestowed such an honour on a player. Goltz couldn’t attend because he was getting ready to go to Montreal on Sunday morning, continuing his pursuit of a starting quarterback job at the pro level.

And when that day comes, Andy Collins will be right there with him.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk 


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