MONTREAL - It might be his 40th birthday but Anthony Calvillo says he doesn't feel it. And he certainly hasn't looked it on the field this season.
In his 19th CFL season and 15th in Montreal, the Alouettes quarterback leads the league with 2,328 passing yards. This, after setting league records in touchdown passes, passing yards and completions a year ago.
His next touchdown pass will move him ahead of Warren Moon into second all-time in all of professional football.
"When you look at the big picture, it is pretty amazing," said Calvillo. "Damon Allen played for so many years and I always wondered how he did it. Now here I am going into my 19th year and people ask me how I've been able to do it.
"A lot of credit goes to this organization and all the guys I've been able to play with. Without them and the success we've all shared here, there's no way I would have been able to play for this long."
Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman has watched Calvillo age like a fine wine in his five years at the helm.
"I'm so truly appreciative to be hanging around him. He's helped me grow as a person and as a coach because of my association with him," Trestman said. "He's created an environment in the locker room that players would very much like to be a part of. We're just trying to appreciate every minute of it."
Rookie fullback Patrick Lavoie was only seven years old when Calvillo made his CFL debut in 1994. Yet even with the age gap, Calvillo has made the youngster feel right at home in the Alouettes' locker room.
"He's like a big brother," said the 24-year-old. "He's taught me a lot and I keep learning just by watching him. He takes the time to explain things and help me out."
The Alouettes (4-3) will be hoping for more of the same on the field from their future Canadian Hall of Fame quarterback against Henry Burris and the Tiger-Cats.
After a rough start to the season, Montreal heads into Thursday's game — on Calvillo's birthday — having won two straight, including last week's 38-25 triumph over the Eskimos in Edmonton. The Alouettes had their way with the league's then-stingiest defence, putting up a 28-0 advantage in the opening a quarter and a half.
"We're an ascending football team based on the last two weeks but we also aren't blind to what we've got to do better on all three sides of the ball," Trestman said. "We're in a very fluid league where you have to be ready each and every week. That's the challenge."
As much as the Alouettes are riding higher these days, the opposite goes for the Tiger-Cats. Hamilton (3-4) is coming off a 32-25 loss to the Blue Bombers last week in Winnipeg, a score that fell against them in large part due to turnovers.
"Over the past few weeks, we haven't been consistent enough to get ourselves victories. That's the reason we've dropped two straight," said Burris. "We've had some mental errors, last week it seemed like I couldn't hold on to the ball whenever I had it. We've got to be more consistent. We've had drives and put up yards but we're just not finishing off drives."
The team is well aware of what's at stake against the Alouettes. A win and Hamilton moves out of third place in the East Division. A loss and a Winnipeg win over the B.C. Lions and the Tiger-Cats could find themselves tied for the division basement.
"If we want to hold stride with (division-leaders Montreal and Toronto) and keep away from Winnipeg, we've got to win this game and start to put something together," he said. "As we've seen in the past, the teams that are true contenders for the Grey Cup start to put things together around mid-season, which is where we are now."
The change of scenery from Calgary to Hamilton has been a positive one for Burris. The 37-year-old has passed for 2,175 yards through eight games, a total that puts him second only to Calvillo with 2,175 passing yards.
He and his team enjoyed a strong outing in the last meeting between the two clubs back on July 21. Burris completed 90 per cent of his passes that night while throwing four touchdown passes in a 39-24 triumph at Ivor Wynne.
A healthy scratch since returning to the Tiger-Cats after the team released him in the off-season, former Alouette Avon Cobourne will make his first start of the season with starting running back Chevon Walker out with injury.