MONTREAL - Anthony Calvillo was hailed as one of the CFL's all-time greats as his No. 13 banner went up on the wall at Percival Molson Stadium on Monday afternoon.
The league's all-time passing leader, who retired after 20 seasons in January, had his jersey retired in a ceremony at halftime of the Montreal Alouettes' 40-9 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The crowd of 23,069 stood and cheered as Calvillo climbed onto a stage on the field with his wife Alexia, daughters Athena and Olivia and other family members. He was greeted by three teammates from his early years — quarterback Tracy Ham, running back Mike Pringle and fullback Bruno Heppell.
"He was the greatest quarterback the CFL has ever seen," Ham told the crowd.
Calvillo is the 10th Alouette to have his number retired and the first since Pringle.
"These names are part of history and I'll be part of that history now," said Calvillo.
His favourite receiving target, Ben Cahoon, was among a group who had recorded messages played on the scoreboard, including NFL passing leader Brett Favre, former Alouettes safety Barron Miles and Hall of Fame offensive tackle Uzooma Okeke.
Favre told Calvillo "Congratulations on a wonderful career. Well done, my friend."
Calvillo, 42, announced his retirement after missing the second half of the 2013 season with a concussion suffered in a game against the Roughriders.
He went out as the league's all-time passing leader with 79,816 yards, including seven seasons of more than 5,000 yards. He threw for a career-best 6,041 yards in 2004.
He also holds career CFL records for pass attempts (9,437), completions (5,892) and touchdowns (455), with only 224 interceptions.
The Los Angeles native won three Grey Cups and was named the league's outstanding player in 2003, 2008 and 2009.
Calvillo is expected to join the Alouettes coaching staff in some capacity next season.
"Right now, the focus is on the Alouettes," he said. "I'll be concerned with my future when the season's over, but it will be in coaching and it will be here in this amazing city."
An extended intermission saw the stage rolled onto the field for the 25-minute ceremony.
The Alouettes players left their locker-room early to watch the end of it. They seemed to respond to the emotion of the day as they ran over the Roughriders in the second half, while newcomer Jonathan Crompton improved to 5-1 as a starter.
"Jonathan Crompton is winning," said Calvillo. "There's too high expectations on quarterbacks.
"It is difficult and challenging to win week in and week out. In his limited time, he's done a lot for himself and his team by winning games. It's encouraging.
"Luckily for me, I had Tracy there (when he joined the Alouettes in 1998). Not everything was on my shoulders. I had two years to learn how to be a consistent quarterback."
Pringle told the crowd he hoped to return in a few years when Calvillo will certainly get into the hall of fame.
"Like all young players, we gave AC a hard time, but I saw a will to be out there on the field and a will to win and fight to be the best he could be," said Pringle. "That's what I wanted from the people around me more than anything else."
Calvillo began his CFL career in 1994 with the defunct Las Vegas Posse and moved the next season to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
He signed with Montreal in 1998 to be Ham's backup and took over the starting job in 2000.
Ham said Calvillo's success came from talent and hard work.
"Some call me his mentor, but I give Anthony all the credit," said Ham. "I was just one of his teammates.
"I just passed on what was given to me about the CFL game from Damon Allen and Danny Barrett and Matt Dunigan."
The Alouettes used the 13th of October to retire Calvillo's jersey, following the lead of the Montreal Canadiens, who have matched the jersey with the day number in recent retirement ceremonies.
Calvillo's joins Virgil Wagner (78), Herb Trawick (56), Sam Etcheverry (92), Hal Patterson (75), George Dixon (28), Pierre Desjardins (63), Peter Dalla Riva (74), Junior Ah You (77) and Pringle (27) on the wall.