Perseverance Personified: Anthony Calvillo
I'm a football fan. A football fan who got fed up with the NFL years ago.
For years now, I've been a fan of the Canadian Football League. First, I like the style of play. There are some interesting twists to the Canadian game. Second, you just don't see the personality cults prevalent in the NFL.
I can go on all day long describing my utter disgust with the NFL and extolling the virtues of the CFL, but that isn't the point here.
I could go on a rant about the Jekyll and Hyde act my Hamilton Tigercats are putting on this year, but that's not the point either.
And God knows I'm no sports reporter.
Being a Tigercats fan, I'm not real big on the East Division rival Montreal Alouettes, but I am a fan of the two-time defending Grey Cup champions' quarterback, Anthony Calvillo.
On October 10th, Canada's Thanksgiving Day, on the last play of the 3rd quarter before a home crowd against the Toronto Argonauts, Anthony Calvillo became the greatest passer in pro football history
The 18 year veteran had a pretty good day, including a 19 yard touchdown run, but the Argos were playing them tough.
That's right: I said 18 year veteran...18 years of professional football. 18 years of sacks, knockdowns, hits, run-for-your-life, and oh yeah....there was that cancer thing last year.
He injured his sternum during a game, and during the course of treatment a cancerous lesion was found on his thyroid.. He underwent a successful thyroidectomy in December. Did I mention he finished the season by winning his third Grey cup (his second back-to-back) in November?
That wasn't the first cancer scare: His wife Alexia fought her own battle with cancer in 2007.
Let's go back a bit further, Calvillo had a bit of a tough childhood growing up in Southern California.
He found his way to Utah State where, in 1993 he led them to their first Big West Conference title in 15 years and their first ever (and still only) win in a bowl game: a 42-33 victory over Ball State in the '93 Las Vegas Bowl. He was the MVP of that game.
A fantastic '93 senior year wasn't enough to garner any attention from NFL scouts. Who don't traditionally pay much attention to anybody other than BCS-type schools (don't get me started on this...).
The CFL's short-lived expansion into U.S. markets was underway, and in 1994, he and nine other QB's got a tryout with the Las Vegas Posse. He got Coach Ron Meyers' attention and Anthony was on his way to greatness. Via the long road.
Greatness was a while in coming to Calvillo: he didn't fair so well with the Posse and when the franchise folded, he found himself as a backup quarterback for the Hamilton Tigercats in 1995.
A free agent in 1998, he signed with the Montreal Alouettes, and in 2002 he led the Als to their first Grey Cup in 25 years. A feat he would repeat in 2009 and again in 2010.
Along the way, he has surpassed NFL greats Dan Marino, Bret Farve and Warren Moon (a former CFL'er). Finally, on October 10, 2011 he passed CFL Hall of Famer Damon Allen to cement his place in pro football history.
He became the greatest ever. In either league. Period.
Anthony Calvillo has had more than his share of adversity, yet despite all that, he will be the first to tell you just how richly he has been blessed. He's never forgotten where he came from, and what it's taken for him to get here. He has stayed true to his roots, true to himself. He stuck with his dream when it would've been easy to give up on it and understandable if he had.
And just how do you think he celebrated this historic accomplishment? A celebratory dinner? The mother of all parties?
After the game, he humbly joined teammates to serve Thanksgiving Dinner to the less than fortunate.
You have a kid playing little league football? Want to give him a role model? Give him Anthony Calvillo.
That's the point.