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Other QBs with sicker skill sets have come and gone.
Badass attitudes with NFL talents have fallen by the wayside.
Challengers and would-be inheritors were at varying times hipper, cooler, hotter.
He wasn’t the strongest. He wasn’t the fastest.
But in a three-down world, to rewrite the CFL record book and reset the standard for a truly Canadian hero it took a man from East LA, eh?
He risked his career to be the good gusband. He risked his secret would be exposed so that teammates would share the trust-building burden that he would have to fight his own good fight against cancer.
He did what he had to do when he had to do it. He did his homework.
He was good at being a good father, a good husband, a good teammate, a good man.
Anthony Calvillo. The Goodest. Adds up to greatness.
“It’s very heartfelt because when I went to Montreal the only thing I knew about Anthony Calvillo was his completion percentage,” Marc Trestman says from his Chicago Bears office.
“By the time I left Montreal he became a member of my family and vice versa.”
“A lot went on statistically and in terms of wins and losses, but when I think about Anthony Calvillo it goes much deeper than that – it goes to his heart.”
Anthony had his football heart broken repeatedly in life to prove to us that what didn’t kill us really COULD make us stronger.
His wife Alexia’s cancer battle was the ultimate emotional blindside. Anthony’s long timeout to be by her side would lead to a potentially perfect return. The 2008 season would be dedicated to her, and the quest for a Cup could be won on home turf.
But “The Kid from La Puente” would find no Hollywood ending at the corner of Pie-IX and Pierre de Coubertin.
“She is probably the greatest thing that ever happened to him,” says Scott Suter, the former Alouette athletic therapist who has remained Calvillo’s friend, confidant and life coach of sorts.
“She’s a very strong character, a pillar of strength.”
“He rededicated himself after the ’08 loss. That’s why for me, his proudest moment on the field is the comeback of 2009. It was everything he’d learned through his wife’s illness to ‘how can I become a better player.’”
The game some will always remember as “The 13th Man Miracle” (sorry for your nightmare, Saskatchewan) was heart-stopping near-perfection from Calvillo in the second half. He would complete 13/17 passes for 184 yards and 2 TDs to set up the ultimate re-do.
“If he started getting down on himself, they wouldn’t have pulled out that game,” Suter believes.
“Anthony came out on fire, the defence was inspired, and he overcame the odds to bring that team back. It was a defining moment.”
“Fans in Montreal are tough on their goalies and their quarterbacks,” admits Suter.
“They’re waiting for the collapse. He took the team on his shoulders. It was inspiring.”
Calvillo would lead the franchise to its only repeat Cup in 2010 and call an audible in his post-game news conference to unload the bombshell of a lifetime.
He’d already been diagnosed with cancer and certain teammates carried that secret with him the way Calvillo would carry the team.
“The true grace that Anthony Calvillo has is something that will resonate,” says Trestman. “Fans should think about his grace, the way he handled himself through victory and defeat.”
“It goes to his transparency and his work ethic, his ethics and his integrity, the way he transcended our locker room.”
“We all grew because Anthony Calvillo showed us how to carry ourselves on a daily basis through the journey, the long marathon that is a football season. He showed us how to be accountable, responsible, all different life-skill things we tried to teach our guys. Every single day Anthony Calvillo took the lead.”
“We talked a lot about ‘competitive greatness’ over the years ,” Coach Trestman reveals. “What really makes a champion is he’s the best when his best was needed. It clearly was the case with Anthony.”
“The beautiful thing is that his life is just beginning. He’s going to have a platform to do the same with so many others in whatever direction he decides to go. It will resonate with him and Alexia and their children as they move forward.”
“His words have great content and are very meaningful and from the heart. That’s one thing I think people may get more opportunity to see now that he’s off the field. People will get a chance to hear more of that and feel more of that, because the way he communicates is unique and exceptional.”
“He is one of the truly most special people I have ever been associated with. We would never have had the success that we did during my time there without it all starting with Anthony Calvillo on and off the field.”
“With all the football experiences, what resonates mostly with me and will for the rest of my life is how he changed lives,” Trestman assures.
Anthony and Alexia will continue to change lives off the field. The Calvillo Family Room of the Cedars Cancer Institute at the Montreal General Hospital is legacy stuff.
Nobody’s perfect, of course. Begrudingly, something unkind is finally said about good friend Anthony.
“The guy can’t cook,” reveals Suter, who packed his own rice cooker at Grey Cup weeks so AC could have his quinoa and sweet potato.
“Hell no, he can’t boil water.”
He sure has mastered a good recipe for success in the game of life, though.