They were rivals for more than a decade but over the course of the Toronto Argonauts’ mini-camp, Anthony Calvillo and Ricky Ray have officially begun to work together on the same side.
In the early and mid 2000s, Ray’s Edmonton Eskimos and Calvillo’s Montreal Alouettes faced each other three times in four years for a Grey Cup. Ray’s side took two of them.
Calvillo retired in 2014 as professional football’s all-time leader in passing yards (79,816) and the winner of three Grey Cups. His former coach in Montreal, Marc Trestman, hired him as the Toronto Argonauts quarterbacks coach in March, after Ray led the Argos to a Grey Cup win last season.
They’re happy to be working together and they both see the tremendous opportunity in front of them, but at the same time, it was put to Ray, it has to feel a little weird at the same time.
“It is, it is (weird),” Ray said, fresh off the field at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
“But I think I’ve just grown used to it,” he continued. “I had Jason Maas, who I played with, coached me (as the Argos’ QB coach from 2012 to 2014) and Jarious Jackson, Dave Dickenson, Khari Jones. They’re guys that I’ve played against and I see them coaching in this league, so it’s not a new thing for me. But this being Anthony Calvillo, who I played with for so long and had a few Grey Cup games against, it is kind of weird.”
It’s a weirdness that Ray welcomes. With the quick-to-burn-you Florida sun rising on him and the start of the 16th season of his CFL career, Ray, a surefire hall of famer and four-time Grey Cup champ sounds a little enamoured with his former rival. While Ray is plenty accomplished — he cracked the 60,000 passing yards mark last season — he understands what Calvillo brings to the table for him and his fellow QBs.
Newly-hired quarterbacks coach Anthony Calvillo watches on as Ricky Ray steps into a pass at Toronto Argonauts Mini-Camp in Florida (Stacy White/Argonauts.ca)
“I think (his addition) helps out so much. Anthony’s not just an ex-quarterback, he’s one of the best of all-time. He threw for almost 80,000 yards in the CFL,” Ray said.
“He’s got experience in this league, in this offence and he’s really going to help those guys out. He’s going to help me out a ton too, with his experiences that he’s gone through and his relationship with coach Trestman, they worked together for five years in Montreal. It’s going to be a lot of fun this year. It’s going to be tough. These guys are good coaches and they can be tough on us and expect a lot out of us. We’ll get better.”
Through three seasons in Montreal that saw him go from receivers coach to offensive coordinator and back to quarterbacks coach, Calvillo has been in similar situations. He worked with Darian Durant and Kevin Glenn, two highly-regarded quarterbacks and adversaries in his playing career.
“Now I get a chance to see and listen to Ricky and see his process and what he has done to get himself ready for so many years,” Calvillo said. “I’m looking forward to that, the progression of seeing the difference between all of the quarterbacks that I’ve worked with.”
Two days in, it’s almost like Calvillo is seeing things that he forgot he knew about Ray.
“I think the years that he’s played I can kind of tell when he’s going to rush the draw and when he’s not, just based off of my knowledge and what I think he’s doing,” Calvillo said. “That’s exciting to see, knowing that I could share that knowledge and that I could try to make it better or just leave it alone, that’s how Ricky does it,” Calvillo said.
Ray seems thrilled to have Calvillo on his side for the first time.
“I would have never imagined, even a few years ago if you’d said that Anthony Calvillo was going to be coaching me, I never thought that would happen,” Ray said.
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When his hiring was announced in March, Calvillo admitted that it felt strange to put on the Argos colours and to stand in front of the team’s backdrop to answer questions. He said he got some ribbing from his former teammate, S.J. Green, when he walked onto the field in his Argos gear at IMG on Tuesday, but he feels much more comfortable in his role now. The only thing that’s irking him so far is the off-the-field part of the job.
“This year is I’m doing a lot more of the clerical work. Computer and me, it’s not my best friend,” he said.
“That’s the part that gets a little nerve wracking at times, making sure all the draw-ins are correct. I remember as a player when you’d get the draw-ins and I’d always find the little small mistakes. I said that if I was a coach that wouldn’t happen but believe me, you’ll look at that sheet 10,000 times and you’ll miss something.
“I’m just kind of coming to (accept) that that’s going to happen sometimes. That’s the part that’s more challenging. On the field, talking football, that’s fun.”