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No regrets: Former Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo enjoying retirement

10/10/2014 03:00 EDT | Updated 12/10/2014 05:59 EST
Anthony Calvillo hasn't had any trouble keeping himself busy the past year.

Most of the former CFL quarterback's attention has been focused on his wife Alexia Kontolemos and their two young daughters, but he has also done some public speaking and secured the credits he needed to complete his general studies degree, which he started at Utah State University before he turning pro.

He hasn't spent much time watching football and has no regrets about retiring in January.

"Once I made that decision it was done," he said. "That day (official announcement) was tough but when I woke up the next morning, it was actually a relief because it just felt like all the weight was lifted off my shoulders.

"I've never looked back since."

Calvillo will return to Percivil Molson Stadium on Monday when the Montreal Alouettes will retire his jersey.

He made No. 13 lucky for the Als.

Over 16 seasons, Calvillo led Montreal to eight Grey Cup appearances, winning three, and was named the league MVP on three occasions. Calvillo retired in January to cap an illustrious 20-year career as the most prolific passer in pro football history (79,816 yards) and the CFL's all-time leader in TDs (455), completions (5,892) and attempts (9,437).

Montreal will retire Calvillo's number at halftime of their game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It's a heady accomplishment considering the 42-year-old Los Angeles native joined the Alouettes amid uncertainty in '98 after being released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"I was just trying to rediscover myself and find a way to be a consistent, championship quarterback," said Calvillo, who still lives in Montreal. "I was able to do that by being mentored by Tracy Ham, who taught me a lot about how to prepare and be a professional quarterback.

"The hardest thing was trying to be consistent and once I was, then it was trying to win a championship and attempting to stay at a level I had created for myself. But looking back on it now, never in a million years did I think I'd be able to accomplish what I did over the past 20 years."

Calvillo will become just the 10th Alouette to have his number retired. He'll join Herb Trawick (No. 56), Virgil Wagner (No. 78), Sam Etcheverry (No. 72), Hal Patterson (No. 75), George Dixon (No. 28), Pierre Desjardins (No. 63), Dalla Riva (No. 74), Junior Ah You (No. 77) and Mike Pringle (No. 27).

"I've won championships, I've been MVP and so your name gets written into the record book," he said. "But to me, this is a reflection of the great teams we've had here.

"We've had so many great coaches, great talent and we all worked together to achieve many special things. To have my jersey number retired is overwhelming . . . I just can't fathom it right now."

Calvillo began his career with the Las Vegas Posse in '94 but went to Hamilton in the CFL expansion draft that off-season. After three roller-coaster seasons with the Ticats, Calvillo was released and turned down an offer from Saskatchewan to sign with Montreal as Ham's understudy before becoming the Als starter in 2000.

Calvillo quickly emerged as one of the CFL's top performers, in 2012 becoming the first league quarterback to register seven 5,000-yard passing seasons. But he suffered a season-ending concussion in August 2013 against Saskatchewan and retired five months later.

He plans to get into coaching next year and is expected to be on Montreal's staff in 2015.

"I still have much to learn about coaching," he said. "Whenever we had off days, the coaches were there preparing and getting us ready for our next opponent.

"I have to see how they're able to gameplan week to week and prepare two or three games in advance. There's a lot coaches must do and that's something I'm looking forward to, the challenge."

Calvillo won championships in Montreal playing for head coaches Don Matthews and Marc Trestman. Calvillo was the '02 Grey Cup MVP under Matthews — who won 10 Grey Cups as an assistant and head coach — and captured two more titles ('09-'10) with the offensive-minded Trestman.

"When Don got here I remember the first meeting I had with him . . . I was nervous because I wasn't sure what he was going to do with me," Calvillo said. "But he said, 'Listen, we're going to change the system, we're going to bring in the talent, we're going to bring the coaches and you're going to go out there and lead us.'

"That really changed the course of my career because that was the first year I was able to lead a team to a championship and it all came down to Don Matthews believing in me."

Calvillo said Trestman, now the Chicago Bears' head coach, was a stickler for detail.

"His offence is very dynamic, he's going to challenge you as a quarterback," Calvillo said. "But I've never been around a coach who was so detailed and not just about the quarterback position but the receivers always had to be in the right spot and it changed play to play.

"Marc Trestman was the total package. He had smarts and intelligence and also the patience and guidance to make sure what he was saying made sense to us. Once it did, we were able to go out and execute it."

Both Matthews and Trestman involved Calvillo in forming the weekly gameplan and often adapted Montreal's offensive attack around Calvillo's strengths. Calvillo also spent many hours looking at film for defensive deficiencies he could exploit.

But it wasn't always that way, which should give Calvillo additional credibility as a coach.

"Early in my career I wish I would've been more dedicated to my sport," Calvillo said. "That means studying a lot more like I did later on, working harder in the weightroom and being in the best shape possible.

"I just didn't do those things early on and looking back I wish I would've."

Calvillo has also been shaped by his off-field challenges. Both he and his wife are cancer survivors and their battles have helped give Calvillo a new outlook on football.

"Getting married grounded me, having my first daughter put things in perspective because after a tough loss just holding her made me realize what was important in life," he said. "But when Alexia got sick, you talk about really putting things into perspective.

"Here your wife is fighting for her life and yet I'm getting stressed out about winning and losing games. When my wife got sick. it relaxed me much more because I still put the same passion into (football) but I wasn't as devastated about a loss. I was able to say, 'Ok, let's just grow from this and move on.'"

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