MONTREAL - Former Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman can finally take time to enjoy the city he called home for five years.
Now coach of the NFL's Chicago Bears, Trestman is briefly back in Montreal this week, where he led the Als to two consecutive Grey Cup victories in 2009 and 2010.
The Alouettes (1-1) will honour Trestman at halftime of Montreal's regular season home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-0) at Percival Molson Stadium on Friday.
"It's emotional being back," said Trestman, who went 59-31 in five winning seasons with Montreal from 2008 to 2012. "It's a privilege to be back. This time, (my wife) and I will see the city and walk the city together, which we really didn't have the chance to do much of when we were here —other than the (Grey Cup) parades. We're looking forward to that.
"Five years went by in the blink of an eye. We were appreciative of every minute of it. It must have been a great time because it went by so fast."
Trestman will take to the field at halftime on Friday, flanked by Als owner Bob Wetenhall and general manager Jim Popp, to receive a large commemorative photograph celebrating his success in Montreal.
A humble Trestman said he was very surprised when Wetenhall told him about the ceremony over the phone.
"To single out a person that was part of a team for five years was very hard for me," said Trestman of Friday's event. "There were so many people involved in having the success that we did have."
Trestman joined the Alouettes in the winter of 2007 after more than two decades in various coaching and administrative roles at the U.S. collegiate level and with eight different NFL teams — including one year as the assistant head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2004.
In his first year with the Als, Trestman took the team all the way to the Grey Cup final, where they lost to the Calgary Stampeders on home soil. The following year, Trestman led the Alouettes to the team's first Grey Cup in seven years, a come-from-behind victory in the dying seconds over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Montreal lost only three games in the regular season that year.
When the Als hoisted the CFL's top prize again in 2010, Trestman became the only coach in Alouettes history to win consecutive Grey Cups. For his efforts, the 58-year-old was named the CFL's coach of the year.
In 2013, Trestman and the Als parted ways when the Minnesota native was offered the reins of the Chicago Bears. In his first year with the Bears, Trestman narrowly missed the playoffs, finishing second in the division with an 8-8 record.
But while the game and skill level may be more demanding south of the border, Trestman says coaching in the NFL is very similar to the CFL.
"Football is the ultimate people business," he said, explaining that the core coaching principles don't change from one league to the next. "Trying to send the messages that are the same every day, but sending them in different ways because you have a room full of guys that hear you differently, that's the challenge of coaching.
"It's still about mutual respect, holding people in high regard, and using the right words in the right language. When you play the game of football, you're really part of something bigger than yourself. When you go through adversity and success, you keep those things in mind, because those are the things that ground you."
Since leaving Montreal, Trestman has tried to keep one eye on his former team. He watched with disappointment when the 2-3 Alouettes fired his replacement Dan Hawkins after only five games into the 2013 season — the first time in six years the Alouettes finished the regular season with a losing record (8-10).
Trestman was also watching when his former quarterback Anthony Calvillo, professional football's all-time passing leader, called it quits this year, retiring just five months after suffering a concussion. Trestman had nothing but praise for the 41-year-old Calvillo.
"What people don't see all the time with Anthony is how really smart he is, and how good he is with words, how articulate he is in his ability to communicate. When Anthony got in front of the team and had something to say, everybody listened. He was always on point, passionate, under control."
In the spring, Trestman invited Calvillo down to Chicago to mentor the Bears' quarterbacks for a day, including eight-year NFL veteran Jay Culter. The former Als coach even backed Calvillo should the retiree ever decide to try his hand at coaching.
"He certainly has the football aptitude, but he does have the ability to communicate with all different kinds of people," said Trestman. "If he decides to take that route, he won't be a good coach, but a great coach."
With the team's newest coach Tom Higgins leading the way from the sidelines, and Ohio native Troy Smith taking the snaps for Montreal this season, the Alouettes are looking to return to their winning ways, and possibly book a ticket to the Grey Cup final for the first time since 2010.
Trestman has liked what he's seen from Montreal's defence so far this season, and sees a lot of potential in the team's offence. And while Smith has big shoes to fill, Trestman believes things are looking up for his former team.
"It certainly looks like (Smith) has the skills to be a very good player," said Trestman. "He certainly has athletic talent, there's no doubt about that. Expectations in Montreal are so high because of the quarterback play they've had for so many years. That's going to be a tough act to follow.
"I think it's an exciting time for the Alouettes. I really do."
Notes: Trestman will begin his second season coaching the Bears this September. … The 102nd Grey Cup will be played at Vancouver's BC Place in November. … Syracuse offensive co-ordinator George McDonald recently compared Trestman to former L.A. Lakers coach Phil Jackson. … Trestman played quarterback for the University of Minnesota in college.