QUESTION & ANSWER WITH ANTHONY CALVILLO – COMPLETE CHAMPION LUNCH

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LANGLEY, British Columbia – The 6th Annual Dowco Group Complete Champion Lunch on Nov. 12 will feature the CFL’s all-time leading passer in Anthony Calvillo as the guest speaker in support of Trinity Western University Athletics.

Earlier this week, Calvillo, whose number 13 was recently retired by the Montreal Alouettes, sat down to answered a few questions about his illustrious CFL career as well as his life beyond the field.

The Complete Champion Lunch is Nov. 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre. Tickets are $175 per person or $1,200 for a table of eight. Contact wanda@spartanfoundation.cato order tickets or go online to www.spatansfoundation.ca. Tax deductible receipts are available.

Q&A WITH ANTHONY CALVILLO

You recently had your No. 13 retired in Montreal. What was that experience like?

“It was the first time I actually went in the stadium and looked around and really go to appreciate what these fans and our city have done for us. When I was playing, I didn’t focus on the crowd. I was just so focused on what I was doing and taking care of my job. On Monday, I looked back and saw the fans there and cheering us on and that was fun.”

After a couple of years in Hamilton, you joined Montreal in 1998 as a free agent. What worked so well with the Alouettes that enabled you to launch one of the greatest careers in CFL history?

“When I first got (to Montreal), I was trying to rediscover myself. I came off of a couple of hard years in Hamilton. The reason I went to Montreal was because it was a winning organization and I wanted to see what they were doing right. And they also had an experienced championship quarterback in Tracy Ham. I just followed in his footsteps and he became my mentor. When I came to Montreal, I was finally mentally ready to be mentored by someone. When I was in Hamilton, that was not the case. I thought I had all the answers but I did not.

“We also had great coaches and we had great talent. It wasn’t all on my shoulders. It was a good mix and a good blend.”

Once you became a Christian, how did that change your outlook on football?

“I learned that I could just close my eyes and pray and talk to directly to God. That was the most reassuring thing. When something was pressing my heart or something was bugging me or if I just wanted to give him praise, I could just shut my eyes and say thank you. Before I became a Christian, I didn’t understand that that was available to me.”

You’re well-known for being involved in the community. Why is this something that’s so important to you?

“If every athlete, reflects on their childhood, they can remember their parents and their coaches really guiding them and influencing them to stay on track and to do well in school, so they could play sports. That’s what happened to me. For me, I think it’s my obligation to go back and pay it forward. If it wasn’t for all those volunteer coaches, who were coaching me when I was growing up, there’s no way I would have been able to go out there and have any success.

“For me, it was imbedded in me that whatever community I was in, I was going to get involved. Someone did it for me and gave me an opportunity.

“The things that are going on in your community are very important and, as an athlete, you can influence somebody just by your presence. You don’t have to say one word. It’s just your presence being there that can make a big difference in someone else’s life.”

Your wife Alexia has been cured of cancer and you are a cancer survivor. What was it like to go through those experiences?

“It was a shocker when we learned about (Alexia’s) cancer. My wife just gave birth to our second daughter and a week later we were back in the hospital because she was having some issues breathing. The first thing we did was get down on our knees and pray for wisdom and guidance and strength.

“It was very overwhelming, but the way my wife handled it was truly impressive. The strength and courage that she showed through the whole process was so encouraging. We wanted her to build strength off of us, so we were very positive. But honestly, it was the opposite. We were building strength off of her as we watched how she was able to handle it.

“For myself, my cancer is a very slow developing cancer and I just need to continually get regular checkups. But it hasn’t slowed us down. We accepted the challenge and moved on. Now we’re just enjoying life.”

You got a chance to play NCAA football at Utah State. What was that experience like?

“It was the next step for me. I went from high school to a junior college and then I got the opportunity to get a football scholarship to go attend Utah State. That was fun, but it was also challenging because it was the first time I left the city where I grew up. Now I was going to be living in a different state with a different culture and not knowing anybody.

“But it was great. There’s nothing like going off an attending university and having the opportunity to play football at that level. Those are things that just don’t happen to everybody.”

You were on the winning side of one of the most memorable finishes to a Grey Cup ever as your Alouettes were the beneficiary of the 13th man call against Saskatchewan in 2009. What was that like for you?

“I remember going to the sidelines and getting to me knees and holding my teammates hands. I remember saying, ‘God, whatever happens, happens.’ Then you see the snap, hold and kick and we lose. To be honest with you that was tough. You’re life kind of flashes right in front of you because here was another potential Grey Cup loss. But then you see the mistake and we get an extra opportunity and then we get a chance to get it done again.

“It was an emotional roller coaster for both sides. It was just one of those unfortunate things and we were able to capitalize.”

Finally, now that you’ve been retired for nearly a year, what is the next step for you in your life?

“For next year, the plan is to get into coaching. I’m not sure where that’s going to take me…but I’m hoping that’s here in Montreal.”

-TW-

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