Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo officially announced his retirement at a press conference Tuesday, and the retirement of one of the best quarterbacks ever to play in the CFL has already sparked plenty of tributes. Calvillo's 20-year career north of the border was incredible both from a numbers standpoint and from a storyline standpoint; he overcame remarkable odds to make it to the CFL in the first place, survived turbulent times in Las Vegas and Hamilton, established himself in Montreal, almost went to the NFL, stepped away from the game briefly when his wife was diagnosed with cancer, won three Grey Cups, the last while battling cancer himself, and came back from cancer treatment to post three further impressive seasons. Tuesday's announcement came on the heels of a disappointing year where the 41-year-old Calvillo initially struggled to adapt to a new coach (Dan Hawkins) and a new offence, but then adapted and played well before missing the rest of the season after suffering a concussion in August, but the less-than-storybook conclusion doesn't dampen what was an incredible career for Calvillo, and that's reflected in the praise for him that's rolled in from around the league. Here are some of the comments about him:
"Anthony Calvillo is more than one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He is one of the most remarkable people to ever grace our league.
We know he has rewritten the record books, completing passes, throwing touchdowns, and leading teams to wins and championships, amassing a legacy as a player that is second to none. What we can't measure is how many lives he has inspired with his example of courage and perseverance. For all of his touchdown drives and comeback victories, his greatest triumphs have been over poverty and circumstance, disappointment and discouragement, injury and illness.
He has shown us what it takes to be a winner on the field. Along the way, he taught us much about what it means to be a true teammate, a loving father and a devoted husband.
All of us will miss AC the player. He is a singular talent. But Canadians from coast to coast, and football fans beyond our borders, have also come to know Anthony the person. And that is why we have every confidence that he will continue to excel, in his career after football and in his life, most of all."
- CFL commissioner Mark Cohon
“Today a hero to many steps to the side, not to be forgotten but to be cherished and respected for years to come. Anthony, you have earned your stripes. I, first and foremost, want to thank you for being a true gentleman and professional. Secondly, for inspiring us all with your courage and determination. And thirdly, for being such a great leader on and off the field.
Your will to help and give has made us all better people, and the Alouettes a better family. I wish you, Alexia, Athena, and Olivia many years of good health, happiness, and that memorable walk off into the sunset as you all reflect on what an outstanding career you have had and all that you have given to your family and work."
- Alouettes' general manager Jim Popp
AC will go down as one of the greatest CFL quarterbacks ever. To see how he's overcame setbacks in so many areas, shows his true leadership and abilities to win no matter what. It's been a privilege to play against one of the all time greats. I know he will take all he's accomplished on the field and have the same success off the field. Thanks AC for all the highlights that you provided me and football fans all over the country!
"What I admired most about AC as a player was his consistency. Every year it seemed like he had his team finishing in first place and he was taking them to the Grey Cup. Then you throw in that he was also being nominated as the East Division MOP. Most players would love to have a couple of great years like that throughout their career and AC was doing it every year."
- Toronto QB Ricky Ray
"What I learned most from my relationship with Anthony is how great of a man he is. He is a man of God, first and foremost. He is a loving husband and father, a loyal friend and teammate, a true competitor, and the ultimate professional. I am truly grateful to witness a part of his journey through his adversities and his success, both on and off the field. It was an honor, as a teammate and coach, to have been a small part of his exceptional career. I wish Anthony, Alexia, and their girls all the best as they embark on their new journey."
- Former teammate and current Toronto OC Marcus Brady
"I'd like to thank Anthony for his contributions to the game of football and the Canadian Football League. He has set the bar very high when it comes to playing the quarterback position, and he has undoubtedly made our league better because of it. His numerous on-field accomplishments speak for themselves, and it's hard to imagine some of his milestone records being broken. He has been a tremendous role model on and off the field, and has continuously displayed many qualities that have made him him the player and person that he is. He has shown courage, overcome adversity, been a fierce competitor, led several of his teams to championships, and he's done it all with class and humility. Congratulations to Anthony on achieving the type of career we all dream of."
- B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay
What about the man himself? Here's what he had to say, from CP:
"Today I would like to announce my retirement from this great game of football," Calvillo said, fighting back tears. "It has been an amazing journey of 20 years, starting in Las Vegas, to my humbling times in Hamilton to the past 16 years here in Montreal."
And from CFL.ca:
It has been quite a ride! As a kid growing up in California, I never thought that it would be possible to play professional football for 20 years in a country and a city that I knew nothing of. I will forever be thankful to our owner Bob Wetenhall and General Manager Jim Popp for allowing this franchise to have all the success that we have had over the years.
It was a remarkable career for Calvillo, and the tributes reflect that. It will be interesting to see what he does next.