If you are lucky enough to have a ticket for the Als game in Montreal on Friday, you better arrive early and make sure you are settled in before Anthony Calvillo leads his offense onto the field for their first series because there is a better-than-average chance that he will finish the opening drive with a touchdown and become the CFL's all-time leader in touchdown passes.
That is not a slight toward the Argos defense in any way; they have played solid over two weeks and also know that the record is just sitting there for the taking. And AC may make it look easy, but he will be the first to tell you that getting a first down versus the Argos is tough, let alone a touchdown. But whether it is in the first series or the last, it is just a matter of time before the record falls.
His next touchdown throw will be his 395th and put him in first place alone. But it is not just that the best QB in the league's history is breaking the record that is so impressive, it is how he has conducted himself throughout his 17 year career as he's track down these records that is most awe inspiring.
I first met Calvillo in 1994 when he was in his rookie year and a member of the Las Vegas Posse. The Riders were visiting Vegas in what is now known as the game in which Canadians heard our national anthem sung to the tune of, "O Christmas Tree." AC was a young gun-slinger and must have thrown it deep 20 times in that game, leading the Posse to a win (which is the part of the story that I would have liked to have forgotten) but carried himself the entire time with class and professionalism beyond his years.
Later that year in Regina, the Riders got their revenge in the win column but I had a chance to meet AC when he and some of his teammates joined some of us for a post-game party. It was during that discussion, at that get-together, that I could tell AC was going to have a long career. He was first of all humble and respectful towards the CFL. In his words, this was a very exciting league made up of great players and he felt he had a lot to learn, and was willing to put in the work to get better.
Since that meeting, I, like the rest of the CFL fans, have had the honour and the privilege to watch AC develop into the league's best ever. He has never in his 17 years called out a coach or a teammate. When he struggled in Hamilton, he again never lashed out or made excuses but instead, focused on getting better and making the teams around him better. He quietly and humbly sat on the bench behind Tracy Ham in Montreal and learned the game, and then when he finally got his opportunity he made it happen. I don't even think it is as much about just being patient as it is about being a first class person; respectful of those around him - his coaches and teammates, and of course, the country that has given him his opportunity. His latest family scares with cancer and his tremendous strength to not only overcome the challenges but inspire others to do the same in the process, is just another example of how solid AC really is as a person.
As an analyst on TSN, I have been asked many times why AC is as good as he is and seems to be so far ahead of the rest of the pack and I have to admit, it has been a challenge to come up with the answer. I have talked about his release, his knowledge of the game, his ability to anticipate, his underrated running skills, but that never seemed to answer the question correctly.
Maybe, however, the answer lies not in who AC is as a football player but perhaps in whom he is as a person. Lots of quarterbacks have quick releases and strong arms with a great knowledge of the game and the ability to run, but only one will become the all-time leading passer in CFL history this year. And maybe there is a lesson to be learned for all of us in that answer. Talent is only part of the process, but it is how you conduct yourself as a person and a teammate and how you humbly work every day to better yourself. That will make you great and that can apply to anyone in any walk of life.
Thanks AC for the ride, and I hope that we get to watch you perform for a few more years. It has been inspiring to watch you become the best, and not because you can throw the football hard and get ride of it quickly, but because you have been a great ambassador for CFL football, and most importantly, an outstanding citizen and role model for so many people.