MONTREAL - Anthony Calvillo is living in the moment.
The Montreal Alouettes' quarterback was named the CFL's outstanding player Thursday night at Casino de Montreal. It's the second time he has claimed the league's highest individual honour - the first was in '03 - but a subdued Calvillo said he certainly appreciates this one more after the year he and his wife, Alexis Kontolemos, have endured.
In October 2007, Calvillo left the Alouettes after his wife was diagnosed with cancer following the birth of their second child, unsure if he'd ever return. Fortunately, Calvillo's wife has responded well to treatment, allowing him to continue his CFL career and ultimately guide Montreal to its sixth Grey Cup berth in nine years.
''This week isn't going by too fast for me, I'm soaking it all in,'' Calvillo said. ''She (Alexis) has taught me about strength and courage.
''I dreamed about this, of living a normal life and getting back to a championship. We thank God for allowing us to share more moments together. If this (winning award) would've happened years ago, I wouldn't have thought about it until a few weeks after the season. But I'm thinking about it now.''
Calvillo, 36, who threw a CFL-high 43 touchdown passes this season, earned the award over Calgary Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris. Calvillo, a 15-year CFL veteran, received 27 of 46 first-place votes.
The other winners included Edmonton Eskimos slotback Kamau Peterson (top Canadian), Montreal guard Scott Flory (lineman), B.C. Lions defensive end Cameron Wake (defensive player), Toronto Argonauts returner Dominique Dorsey (special-teams) and Saskatchewan Roughriders slotback Weston Dressler (rookie).
CFL commissioner Mark Cohon presented the Commissioner's Award, which recognizes outstanding contribution to the league, to the family of Ron Lancaster, the legendary former CFL player, coach and broadcaster who died in September at the age of 69.
''Ron Lancaster did it all in our league,'' Cohon said. ''He is typical of the friends who left us this year, role models and mentors who were often as humble as they were highly accomplished.''
Also, Saskatchewan centre Jeremy O'Day received the Tom Pate award, given by the CFL Players' Association for outstanding community service.
Calvillo led the CFL in pass attempts (682), completions (472) and pass efficiency (107.2) and was second overall in passing yards (5,633) en route to leading Montreal (11-7) to top spot in the East Division. The Alouettes face Calgary in the Grey Cup on Sunday (coverage begins at 3pm et/Noon pt on TSN and TSN HD), looking to become the first team since the '94 B.C. Lions to win the CFL title as the host city.
But Calvillo isn't looking past this season, saying he will decide in the off-season whether to continue playing.
''I'm year-to-year,'' he said. ''I still have the fire and urge to play but there are non-football factors I have to take in mind.
''The main thing is my wife's health. I don't feel 36 but it's the young guys who remind me of where I'm at.''
Burris also enjoyed a stellar 2008 campaign.
The 10-year veteran established career highs in passing yards (5,094) and touchdowns (39) to lead Calgary to a CFL-best 13-5 record. Burris was also the leading rusher among quarterbacks with 595 yards.
Peterson received 26 of 46 votes to become Edmonton's first outstanding player winner since 2002 when rush end Elfrid Payton was named top defensive player. Montreal slotback Ben Cahoon, a two-time top winner, was the finalist.
''This is truly an honour because I've been a fan of Ben's for a long time,'' Peterson said. ''I had Ben picked in my pool so I lost the money.
''This is not something I covet. I always figured if I played the game well enough this sort of thing might come. I never lost confidence.''
Peterson was a go-to receiver for CFL passing leader Ricky Ray, finishing with 101 catches for 1,317 yards and four touchdowns. The eight-year veteran provided crucial leadership after veteran Jason Tucker suffered a season-ending neck injury.
Wake, the CFL's top rookie last year, received 44 of 46 votes to earn his second straight top defensive player award. Winnipeg defensive tackle Doug Brown was the finalist.
Wake had 23 sacks and five forced fumbles - both league highs - while also registering 65 tackles. But Wake is heading into his CFL option, meaning he'll have a nine-week window this off-season to entertain NFL offers. The expectation is Wake will receive a lucrative signing bonus and head south.
''My name is on it but this is for the whole defence,'' Wake said. ''Whether it (B.C.'s semifinal loss to Calgary) was my last game or not, the last two seasons have been an amazing run. I have no regrets.''
There's a feeling Wake should've been a serious consideration for the CFL's outstanding player award. Wake says there are certainly defensive players who are deserving.
''I know guys who affect the game as much as any quarterback or receiver,'' he said. ''Fans may not see it but I know how hard it is to get to a quarterback.
''I hope it happens because defences win championships, offences just sell tickets.''
The fourth time was the charm for Flory. The six-foot-four, 300-pound Regina native received 24 of 46 votes to edge Saskatchewan's Gene Makowsky for the award after being a finalist on three other occasions, including '05 when he finished behind Makowsky.
''Wow, I'm blown away,'' said Flory. ''My wife was starting to call me the Susan Lucci of awards.
''The past is the past. This is justification for the guys (teammates), any one of them could be up here. I'm just so lucky to be the guy picked.''
Flory anchored a Montreal offensive line that surrendered a league-low 22 sacks. The Alouettes' offence also led the CFL in scoring (32.4 points per game), total yards (429 per game), pass attempts (712), completions (495) and passing percentage (69.5 per cent).
Dressler earned the top rookie award over Hamilton receiver Prechae Rodriguez with 37 of the 46 votes. Dressler was a crucial figure for a Riders' receiving corps decimated this season by injuries, registering 56 catches for 1,178 yards and 10 TDs, becoming the first rookie in club history to record a 1,000-yard receiving season.
''Personally it's very humbling,'' Dressler said. ''We had the injury bug early in the season and that was an opportunity for me to get on the field.
''My time for learning the game was shortened very quickly. I just played as hard as I could and let everything else fall into place.''
Dorsey received 33 of 46 votes to earn the special-teams award over Calgary kicker Sandro DeAngelis. Dorsey had a league-high 2,892 all-purpose yards despite missing Toronto's final five regular-season games due to injury.
''I'm happy right now but everybody wants to play in the Grey Cup,'' he said. ''I get to go home with some hardware, so that's good.''