O’Leary: Calvillo ready to dive in with Double Blue

Anthony Calvillo spent a portion of his Monday morning feeling like a kid standing at the edge of a swimming pool.

The legendary Montreal Alouettes quarterback had agreed weeks ago to join the Toronto Argonauts as the team’s QBs coach. He’d sat for coffee with coach Marc Trestman in Montreal when he was first offered the job; he talked logistics with his family and finally, he’d called Alouettes owner Bob Wetenhall and told him of his intentions.

All that was left to do on this cold March morning was to take the double-blue Argos’ polo shirt out of its bag and slip it on.

He eventually dove in.

“I just put it on right now, honestly,” he told reporters in a meeting room at a downtown Toronto hotel.

“They brought me the bag this morning. I still had Alouette gear because 75 per cent of my wardrobe is Alouette gear. I thought about this, putting on the colours, and I thought about being on the sideline and wearing the colours. It’s going to be different for the first time but like anything else, you get used to it and you go forward. But yeah, it’s different.”

“I sat down with him and said, ‘There’s a wide-open opportunity here and how cool will it be for you and Ricky (Ray) to be in a meeting room together? We could have a lot of fun, it’d be a great dynamic.’”

Marc Trestman on his meeting with Anthony Calvillo

Marc Trestman and Anthony Calvillo are pictured before a Grey Cup game during their time with the Als (The Canadian Press)

After 19 years with the Alouettes — a 16-year, hall-of-fame run as a quarterback and three years as a member of the team’s coaching staff — seeing Calvillo in Argos gear, standing in front of the team’s double-blue backdrop will take anyone familiar with him some time to get used to.

2018 was supposed to be a year away from the game for Calvillo. He’d left the Als’ organization in early January, intending to rest up. There were plans of family travel, he said, and some charity work. Then Trestman, his coach in Montreal from 2008 to 2012, reached out to him.

“Marc was the major factor. If other people would have came calling I’m not sure if I would have made this decision, or made a decision to go somewhere else,” Calvillo said. “It was the fact that it was him who called me and asked me to come join him.”

“We had a cup of coffee when I was in Montreal a few weeks ago,” Trestman said. “I sat down with him and said, ‘There’s a wide-open opportunity here and how cool will it be for you and Ricky (Ray) to be in a meeting room together? We could have a lot of fun, it’d be a great dynamic.’”

As coach and player, Trestman and Calvillo won Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010 together. From 2008 to 2012, Calvillo enjoyed some of the most productive years of his record-setting career. That stretch came when Calvillo was between 36 and 40-years old. As QBs coach, Calvillo will try to do the same for 38-year-old Ray.

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“Later on in my career I took a lot of pride in making sure I was ready week-in and week-out and you can see Ricky is doing that exact same thing,” Calvillo said.

“The biggest thing is I have to see what I can do to help him get better at this age. And at the same time what he’s going to be able to do to bring the other quarterbacks along as well. That’s what you want, you want to have a veteran quarterback that’s going to be able to week-in and week-out at the same time show the young guys how it’s done. It makes a huge difference when you have a veteran quarterback like that.”

Those young guys — James Franklin, Jeff Matthews, Dakota Prukop and McLeod Bethel-Thompson — will have the luxury of learning the CFL through the experience of Trestman, new offensive coordinator Tommy Condell, Calvillo and Ray. There might be no better QB clinic available to young players in the CFL.

Calvillo said that when he was playing under Trestman in Montreal, he’d tell his backups they were in a special situation. That’s been duplicated and then some in Toronto.

“Whenever you have a veteran quarterback like Ricky Ray, that’s another plus for you because you get a chance to see how he sees the game, how he prepares. It’s up to the young guys to say, ‘I see what it takes to be an elite quarterback in this league.’ Then they have to ask themselves if they’re willing to sacrifice and do the exact same thing.”


Working behind Trestman, Calvillo is doing something similar. He marvelled at his coach’s ability to have a read on those Als teams, how he always knew which direction to take the group, day after day. Just three years into his coaching career, all of them losing seasons in Montreal, he’ll be closely watching what Trestman does.

Trestman had his new staff together on Monday, the start of an intensive two-week film study and playbook-devising meeting. Calvillo was ready to dive in.

“When I got into coaching, I tried to do a lot of things that I remember that (Trestman) did, while at the same time trying to be my own self, that’s the most important thing,” he said.

“A lot of things that we were trying to do were based off of the stuff that we did together. Now I’m going to get a chance to see how we do it from the offseason. Why are we doing this protection? Why are we doing this concept? Why are we going to move these guys around? I’m going to get to gain all that information. So when I talk about how this is going to be great for my career, learning, it’s going to benefit me, just like it’s going to benefit all the other coaches on this staff.”