While everyone readies themselves for a ton of turkey and football this Thanksgiving weekend, Anthony Calvillo will prepare himself to make history when the Alouettes take on the Toronto Argonauts this Monday. Barring injury, he should easily reach the 258 passing yards needed to succeed Damon Allen as the all-time passing yards leader in all of professional football. Yet another of many records achieved by AC this year. Not bad for a guy who got his pro football start in Las Vegas during the ill-fated CFL USA era.
I always chuckle as I remember in 1998 when Jim Popp picked up Calvillo as a free agent from Hamilton. I cringed at the signing, wondering just how badly did we need a back-up like him? Was this a charity case or something? After all, we had the legendary Tracy Ham playing QB for us. And yes, Calvillo was saddled with some awful players in the Hammer and just couldn’t get anything going as their starting quarterback. But something incredible happened.
AC soaked up the tutelage of Ham like a sponge; instead of being thrown into a starting situation and being sandbagged like he was in Las Vegas & Hamilton, Calvillo was able to ease into the eventual leader of the Alouettes offense. It was almost a seamless transition; to the point where when Ham retired, there was no concern as Anthony Calvillo had proven himself ready to go. And at his side was a youngster from Utah named Ben Cahoon who would soon become AC’s close friend, favourite target & the biggest little weapon in his game.
As the 2000s rolled along, Anthony led the team to numerous playoff appearances and a Grey Cup victory in 2002. After that Grey Cup win, the team stayed powerful but then suddenly became unable to finish the job. Grey Cup losses in 2003, 2005 & 2006 now had labelled AC as a choker, unable to finish the job. 2007 was extremely tough for him as his wife Alexa was diagnosed with cancer and he stepped away from football to tend to her, which meant the Alouettes’ playoff run & subsequent successes just may have come to an end.
But 2008 signified a number of changes in the Alouettes organization. January saw the hiring of Marc Trestman, the head coach who’s been credited with reviving the career of Calvillo. Alexa’s cancer treatment went extremely well and AC returned to playing football. The new-look Alouettes had a strong year and made it all the way to the Grey Cup in Montreal which many speculate that had the Alouettes won, the careers of Calvillo, Cahoon and other veterans would have had that storybook ending one dreams of in sports; winning the championship at home. But it wasn’t meant to be.
2009 saw Anthony totally revamp his diet & exercise regime; the results were astounding. He looked, felt and started playing as though he was a teenager, not a man reaching 40. The Alouettes had a dream 15-3 season and it all culminated with a thrilling Grey Cup victory. Gone were the washed-up & choker labels, Anthony Calvillo was a winner once again.
2010 had to be bittersweet for AC. Another astounding year, another Grey Cup win….and another cancer scare. But this time, it would be his own cancer to battle. But true to form with Calvillo, it became yet another obstacle to overcome and overcome it he did. And now this year even with the retirement of his old friend Ben Cahoon, CFL records have fallen to the wayside due to Calvillo’s talented throwing arm and a bevy of capable receivers.
The only thing standing between Anthony Calvillo and football immortality is 258 yards. For a guy who throws 300+ yards per game, this feat should be a piece of cake to achieve. And he’ll set this record at home in Montreal, the city he calls home year round and where he’s become one of, if not the greatest quarterback in CFL history.
And what’s really scary is that Calvillo still is not sure when he’ll retire, as he stills feels young and still enjoys playing football at this level. So when it’s all said and done, the final records he sets just may truly become unreachable. The legend of AC is being rewritten every single day. Only he’ll truly know when and how it’ll end.
If you’re coming to the game this Monday (and you’d be foolish not to as history should be made!), make sure you check out the tailgate to the side of Percival Molson Stadium. The guys from LesGarsQuiVivent will be providing fans with their brand of good food & great entertainment. Come support these guys and meet some great Alouettes fans!