January 28, 2011
The CFL as a whole got a tremendous boost today with the news that Montreal Alouettes' quarterback Anthony Calvillo (pictured at right with head coach Marc Trestman) is reportedly in good health and has signed a new two-year deal with the team. Calvillo has become one of the league's most renowned players, and his incredible performance this past year while dealing with the threat of cancer was nothing short of legendary; he put up an incredible passing line of 4,839 yards and 32 touchdowns with a 67.6 completion percentage, just seven interceptions and a league-high passer rating of 108.1, finished as the East Division finalist for the league's most outstanding player award (and probably should have won that) and led the Alouettes to their second-straight Grey Cup victory.
After the season, Calvillo underwent surgery to remove a suspicious lump in his thyroid. That lump was found to be cancerous, necessitating further surgery to completely remove his thyroid. He's recovering now, but will likely have to take hormone replacement therapy for the rest of his life. For many, that alone might be enough motivation to hang the cleats up; when you add in that Calvillo's 38, that his family has had to deal with cancer before, that he's coming off consecutive Grey Cup victories and that his legendary receiver just retired, most athletes would probably say they'd had about enough.
Calvillo has never been one to fall into other people's classifications, though. For years, he and the Alouettes were unfairly tarred with the brush of coming up short in the big games, but he never appeared bitter about it. Instead, he and the team kept improving and kept forcing their way back to the Grey Cup, and that resulted in them coming home with the prize twice. Everything's clicking for them right now, and their offseason has gone stunningly well so far, with wide receiver S.J. Green turning down NFL opportunities to stay in town and Trestman and offensive coordinator Scott Milanovich remaining in Montreal despite speculation they would be jumping elsewhere. There's a strong nucleus there, and Calvillo's return should make them one of the CFL's best teams again this coming season.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Calvillo is arguably playing the best football of his career despite being 38. Over the last three seasons in Trestman's offence, he's posted completion percentages of 69.2, 72.0 and 67.6, better than in any of his previous seasons. He's only thrown 13 interceptions over the last two years combined; every other regular starter threw more than that last season alone. It's also worth remembering that quarterback longevity isn't exactly unprecedented in the CFL; Damon Allen played until he was 44 and played some of his best football in his latter years with the Argonauts. If Calvillo's able to follow in Allen's footsteps and maintain the performances he's delivered over the last couple of years, this doesn't seem likely to be a sad (potential) farewell tour along the lines of Brett Favre's 2010 season, but rather a triumphant comeback tour. Calvillo, Trestman and the Alouettes are back, and the rest of the CFL had better watch out.