MONTREAL – Tonight at 7 p.m., RDS will continue its special programming of some of the best Alouettes showdowns of the decade. On July 15, 2011, our Alouettes were going head to head with the Toronto Argonauts, and the legendary Anthony Calvillo had the opportunity to set a new CFL record for most career touchdown passes, breaking Damon Allen’s CFL record of 394.
And that’s exactly what he did when he lofted his 395th touchdown pass to Éric Deslauriers at the back of the end zone ten minutes and eleven seconds into the first quarter.
On July 15, 2011, during the first quarter, Anthony Calvillo became the quarterback with the most touchdown passes in CFL history. (The Canadian Press)
The phone rings: “Hi, it’s Anthony Calvillo.”
I had been preparing for this moment all weekend. It’s not every day that you get the chance to speak with a football legend.
The Utah State product retired as one of the Canadian Football League’s most decorated players and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2017. His career totals of 79,816 passing yards and 455 touchdown passes are all-time league records that have yet to be surpassed. He is one of only seven quarterbacks to have eclipsed the 400-touchdown pass mark.
The man we commonly call AC started his CFL career in 1994 with the Las Vegas Posse. Shortly after, he joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1995-1997) and finally found a home with the Alouettes. He remained in Montreal from 1998 to 2013.
That’s where the magic happened. Throughout his stellar career, he won three Grey Cups with the Als (2002, 2009 et 2010), was named to the CFL All-Star Team five times (2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012) and was awarded the title of CFL’s Most Outstanding Player three times (2003, 2008 and 2009).
But let’s get back to the call I received on Monday morning. Being the true gentleman that he is, Mr. Calvillo answered every one of my questions with the same professionalism he always showed on the field.
This pass to Deslauriers, he hasn’t forgotten about it.
“There was a lot of talk about this record,” said Calvillo who finished his 2011 season with 5,251 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. “If I remember correctly, I had to go on one side to get around the safety; That’s how the coaches had drawn up the play. I then had to pass the ball close to the goal post right behind the safety. When I executed that play, I knew that it would be close to the very end of the endzone just because of where I made my pass.
“And I think that they said it was a touchdown, but the Argos’ head coach wanted to have the play reviewed, so they checked the tape. And I remember that I was talking to the coaches on the sidelines getting ready for another play just in case they told us it wasn’t a touchdown.”
We always wonder if big players think about these records or if they try to stay away from the ambient noise.
“When I look back on my career and all the records that we’ve been able to set, I always get questions related to them,” explained Calvillo. “The journalists used to talk to me about these records, but I would just try to just focus on the game to come.”
“I always told the media that I would wait until the end of my career before looking back on it and on all the accomplishments that we’ve been able to achieve. And that’s what I do now with my family, with my daughters. I like the fact that these classic games are being played on TV again, so I can share these moments with my girls.”
“And for this specific game, I was aware of the record that I was about to reach, but I was focusing on playing the best that I could, and I told myself that things would happen in due time.”
Despite all of his records, milestones, Grey Cups, and awards, what Calvillo is proudest of is his longevity with the team. (The Canadian Press)
As we saw briefly at the beginning of this article, Calvillo has accomplished so much during his time in the CFL. Among all these exploits, these Grey Cups, these records, what is he the proudest of?
“It’s hard to say…,” he said.
“I’m proud to have played for 20 years,” he finally confessed. “It’s exciting, there aren’t many people who have been able to do so. So yeah, I’m proud of having competed for such a long time, and at a high level too. I established my standards. And it was very important for me to always play at that level…and that’s what I did.”
“It’s exciting to be able to look back on that part of my life with my kids because they always see me as an old man, so it’s exciting to show them that dad was once able to accomplish all that.
Calvillo, the coach
From 2015 to 2018, Anthony Calvillo was a coach for the Alouettes and the Argonauts. In 2019, he joined the Carabins of l’Université de Montréal.
But the star quarterback claims that becoming a coach was never part of his plan.
“I always said that I would never be a coach,” stated Calvillo. “I only said that because I knew how demanding this job was. Coaches have to put so many hours of work. I had to
put in the work too as a player, but the coaches were on another level.”
“As a coach, you have to work with over 70 different personalities, you have to be careful and can’t always speak your mind. I always thought that it would be a big challenge, but as I was approaching the end of my career, I was wondering what I was going to do when it all ended. I just asked myself what my passion was and in which domain I excelled. I was always involved with this sport, it was my passion, and over the last few years of my career, I knew that was the route I had to take.”
And as for the Carabins, when Danny Maciocia left to become general manager for the Alouettes, he was replaced by Marco Iadeluca. And he is the perfect candidate for the position of head coach, according to Calvillo.
“Marco was there (with the Carabins) with Danny for so many years,” he said. “He then went to André-Grasset for a little bit, but he is back as head coach now and knows pretty much everyone on the team. He recruited most of the guys.”
“The transition went smoothly, but three weeks after he was hired, we couldn’t go back to the office because of COVID-19. We’ve had to adapt since and he is an excellent leader, that’s for sure!”
“I know that I will always be offensive coordinator, but I don’t know if my other titles have changed; We haven’t talked about it much yet, but honestly I learned that all these labels don’t mean much finally,” he explained laughing.
“And for this specific game, I was aware of the record that I was about to reach, but I was focusing on playing the best that I could and I told myself that things would happen in due course.”
Since Anthony Calvillo left the Alouettes, it’s no secret that the team has been struggling to find another quarterback of his caliber.
Things turned around for the Als last season however with Khari Jones and Vernon Adams Jr. Calvillo is very excited about that and can’t believe what our men have accomplished. Jones especially.
“I’m always going to be a fan of the Alouettes because of all the history I have with the team,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to see them succeed so it’s been fun to see the transition from the training camp to the end of last season. ““I genuinely don’t know how Khari Jones did….taking over as head coach at the beginning of the season. He had to face a lot of adversity. We have to give him so much credit for what he has done in Montreal, it’s really exciting. Everyone is looking forward to seeing what the Alouettes will do. I’m happy for Khari, for all the players and for everyone who works in the head office “
To end, Calvillo explained that his heart will always be with the Alouettes, but his role with the Carabins is also something for which she feels very passionate.
He’s not too sure how the stars will align for a possible comeback to the organization that allowed him to flourish into a superstar, but he’s happy to still be in Montreal and to remain involved in the community, especially with University- level athletes.