May 19, 2017

Calvillo, Durant go from foes to friends in Montreal

MONTREAL — There aren’t very many things that make Darian Durant nervous but approaching his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Anthony Calvillo about their past is one of them.

The pair of quarterbacks battled it out on the gridiron for years – Calvillo leading the Alouettes’ charge and Durant taking the reins of the Roughriders. One of the most memorable moments between the two was in the 97th Grey Cup in 2009, when Calvillo’s Alouettes came from behind to defeat Durant and his Riders.

With the Als trailing by two points, and five seconds left on the clock, Montreal kicker Damon Duval missed his first attempt at a field goal. But after Saskatchewan was called for a too-many men penalty during the attempted kick, Duval had another chance to seal the victory, and he did, giving the Als the 28-27 win.

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Durant put on the first jersey other than the green and white of Saskatchewan during Mark’s CFL Week in Regina in March (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

“I finally had the courage to ask him if he thought the game was over, especially in ’09,” he confessed in a season preview call with the media on Thursday. “(I asked) what was his mentality after the missed kick and how did he see things? He told me he thought it was over. He thought that we (Saskatchewan) had it.

“I’m pretty sure the more and more we’re together, we’ll have a lot more discussions about it. He’s such a cool guy, so much fun to be around. So I know we’ll have a lot of good talks about what we’ve been through.”

After 10 seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Durant moved on from the only team he’s played for in the CFL and joined the Montreal Alouettes this off-season. The two-time Grey Cup champion played 119 games in Riderville, passing for 28,507 yards and 152 touchdowns.

Joining the Alouettes meant a fresh start but it also meant joining his former-opponent-turned-coach Calvillo.

Calvillo anchored the ship in Montreal from 1998 to 2013 where he won three Grey Cups (2002, 2009, 2010) while making his way into the history books. The 44-year-old holds the CFL’s all-time passing yards record (79,816) and was named the Most Outstanding Player three times (2003, 2008, 2009).

Durant got to know Calvillo the coach during the Als’ mini-camp in Florida last month and working alongside, instead of against, such a legend is what the 34-year-old is looking forward to most this season.

“His pedigree speaks for itself,” Durant said. “Our battles against each other speaks for themselves. I’m just looking forward to sitting in meeting rooms with him, seeing how he attacked the defences when he played, seeing if we can see things from the same angle and just transferring that over to the field.

“I’m looking forward to it. He’s a very, very bright guy and we’re off to a good start.”

Anthony Calvillo continues his transition onto the sideline following a Hall of Fame career (The Canadian Press)

The 2017 season kicks off with Darian’s former team heading to Montreal to take on the Alouettes. It’ll be Durant’s first time facing his old squad and he’s excited about it.

“First and foremost it’s a great storyline,” Durant said of Week 1’s matchup. “It brings some excitement to TSN, to our league. I love it. Of course, playing against your old team is something that you look forward to.

“I’m excited about it and I’m sure our team is. To open the season, and be the only game going, I think guys are looking forward to that too.”

To Durant, football is a journey that’s brought him to Montreal, where he can now join forces with enlightened minds like Calvillo’s and where he can continue to learn, even as a veteran.

“It’s amazing how when you play a game you love from the time you’re a kid (and then) you grow up and you get to meet legends and be around them,” said Durant. “And now to play for one, it’s just amazing. This game we play, it can take you to great places and you meet special people and this is just one of those cases.”