Anthony Calvillo credits veteran Tracy Ham for helping resurrect his CFL career

Dan Ralph, Canadian Press

Anthony Calvillo and Tracy Ham are together again.

Calvillo credits Ham with resurrecting his CFL career with the Montreal Alouettes, and Wednesday night Calvillo followed his mentor into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, securing induction in his first year of eligibility. Ham retired after the 1999 season and was inducted in 2010.

“When I got to Montreal, I had to take a step back and rebuild everything inside me,” Calvillo said. “I give a lot of credit for much of that to Tracy Ham for opening up my eyes on how a real experienced, championship quarterback should conduct himself on and off the field.

“Also, the mental preparation that came with being successful week in and week out.”

Calvillo signed with Montreal following three difficult seasons in Hamilton. He began his CFL career in ’94 with Las Vegas but went to the Tiger-Cats first overall in the expansion draft after the Posse folded following their first season of operation.

Hamilton had high hopes for Calvillo but released the Los Angeles native following the ’97 campaign. Calvillo started 26 games over three seasons with the Ticats, completing 56.9 per cent of his passes for 7,579 yards with 44 TDs and 45 interceptions.

Calvillo signed as a free agent with Montreal and learned under Ham, a two-time Grey Cup champion.

“The biggest thing was just the respect the guys had for him in the locker-room,” Calvillo said. “And the reason they respected him so much was because of the extra hard work he’d put in, showing up three hours before practice and watching film.

“He taught me what to look for and he challenged me, which were huge steps.”

Calvillo started 14 games over the next two seasons before taking over on a full-time basis in 2000. Over the next 14 seasons, Calvillo led the Alouettes to eight Grey Cup appearances, winning three.

Three times he was named the CFL’s outstanding player and threw for over 5,000 yards in a season on seven occasions. And in 2011, Calvillo became pro football’s all-time passing leader.

But Calvillo retired following the 2013 campaign after suffering a season-ending concussion. Calvillo left the CFL with the most passing yards (79,816), touchdowns (455), completions (5,892), attempts (9,437) and Grey Cup passing yards (2,470) in league history.

The numbers are more impressive when considering Calvillo knew little about Canadian football when he joined the expansion Posse.

“The one less down wasn’t an issue for me,” Calvillo said. “What really stood out though was the size of the field.

“To me, that was the biggest thing because the ball was going to be in the air a bit longer than it would normally when you were making certain throws. The extra guy, you had to deal with him, but that also wasn’t a huge issue. To me, it was the size of the field.”

It’s not the championships, awards or accolades that stand out most in Calvillo’s mind regarding his career. It was his longevity.

“I took pride in playing at a certain standard that I created for myself, that’s what allowed me to play for so many years,” Calvillo said. “I made sure I improved and stayed on top of my game, especially late in my career.

“To me, those last five, six years really stand out.”

Calvillo also credited owner Robert Wetenhall, longtime GM Jim Popp (now with the Toronto Argonauts) and former president Larry Smith with laying the foundation for Montreal’s success.

“They set a standard that was going to be met year in and year out and they made sure the players and coaching staff were accountable to that,” Calvillo said. “Guys took pride in winning, they just didn’t accept losing and you could see that paid off for us.”

After taking a year away from football following his retirement, Calvillo returned to the Alouettes in ’15 as receivers’ coach. He’s currently the club’s quarterbacks coach under head coach Jacques Chapdelaine, who’ll also serve as offensive co-ordinator, the post-Calvillo held last season.

The ’17 season will also mark head coach Marc Trestman’s return to the CFL with Toronto. Trestman’s first stint in Canada was with Montreal (2008-12) and included two Grey Cup championships before becoming the Chicago Bears’ head coach in 2013.

Calvillo thrived under Trestman, a noted quarterback guru. Calvillo completed over 60 per cent of his passes in each of his five seasons with Trestman and had a career-high 43 TD passes in 2008.

“The biggest thing with Marc was he really had the pulse of the locker-room,” Calvillo said. “He knew when to get on us, he knew when to let us be, he knew when to bring us up and down.

“I’ve never really been around a coach who did that on a consistent basis. It just reminds me how important the head coach is to your organization because he leads you and everybody has to follow.”

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14 Comments on Anthony Calvillo credits veteran Tracy Ham for helping resurrect his CFL career

  1. manny oliveira // March 23, 2017 at 6:36 pm //

    Calvillo a class act! Little story to tell, the ALS would stay at hilton hotel in oakville when they played in Hamilton under Tresman, (asked Tresman why here, he said no where to get in trouble, whr next to QEW) My autistic buddy Johnny and I just happened to be thr that day at, the hotel is part of our weekly maintenance schedule! So Johnny goes in asks front desk for Calvillos room #, she gives it to him! He calls using lobby phone and politely asks him to come down! Not 2 minutes later here’s down signing his Ticat Calvillo jersey! Calvillo says “wow even I don’t have one of these” Johnny says now you do! Gives it to him! 5min later Calvillo finds us cutting grass outside stops us and says here Johnny for u! An ALS jersey signed! #classACT

    • Slim Pickens // March 23, 2017 at 10:09 pm //

      Love that story..thanks

    • Dan Bombers // March 23, 2017 at 10:54 pm //

      Great story manny

    • Marc Lebut // March 24, 2017 at 3:11 pm //

      Great memory, manny!

      When the RBs played the Alouettes in Moncton, there was a public event where Both Calvillo and Burris were. There were kids playing hockey in the street next to the place they were. They fond hockey sticks and went to play with the kids. Some parents joined in and had a real good time with the kids. Building memories being humble and human. This is Calvillo.

      He was playing poker with some teammates on the train driving them to Toronto or Hamilton. The game came to a point where two teammates lost their paycheck to Calvillo. He settled for the meal after the game.

      When he broke Damon Allen’s record, did he celebrate after the game? Nope. He went to serve meals to homeless people in a shelter in Montréal. Celebrations waited despite all his family was at home.

      As you say, a class act all the way.

  2. stampland // March 23, 2017 at 6:51 pm //

    Excellent story Manny and a really unique one I’m sure. One reason the CFL is so awesome is the fact most players are humble and down to earth.The fact the clerk gave you his room number proves this! Try doing that with an NFL or NFL team. I’ve run into CFL players over the years and usually positive (except once). My parents used to live in a Downtown Calgary Condo complex where some flames players lived.One was Fred Braithwaite who was a super nice guy.Other than that you could literally walk past one in the hall way and it’s like you weren’t even there

  3. stampland // March 23, 2017 at 7:09 pm //

    I still remember him beating out something like 16 players in win starting job as a Las Vagas Posse.At 21 years old.Very impressive

    • Marc Lebut // March 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm //

      There were 13 QBs fighting for that job. Impressive he did succeed to get it indeed.

  4. Slim Pickens // March 23, 2017 at 10:06 pm //

    Get me Ham on 5, hold the mayo

    • stampland // March 23, 2017 at 10:20 pm //

      not sure I completely get that.maybe I’m just slow

      • Slim Pickens // March 23, 2017 at 10:31 pm //

        Ham as in Tracy Ham, favorite movie of mine AIRPLANE, a line from that, yes it was dumb. I think it was the Captain at the airport, he is paged, has like 3 people on different lines, a Mr Ham on one line, The Mayo Clinic on the other line, he says to the operator, get me Ham on 5 and hold the mayo

  5. Love that story Manny!

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