TORONTO - Cancer has given Anthony Calvillo pause for thought.
But doused his inner fire? Not a chance.
The Montreal Alouettes quarterback was in Toronto on Tuesday, appearing along with Michael (Pinball) Clemons as part of Dove Men+Care’s All-Star Dad Event, an initiative that explores how fathers can be comfortable in their own skin.
For Calvillo, the issue is a little closer to the heart. The Canadian Football League great, coming off back-to-back Grey Cup championships, has had two surgeries to treat and remove thyroid cancer this off-season.
Though he called his cancer “a pain in the butt,” Calvillo knows there always will be a nugget in the back of his mind about the hated disease.
“I’m absorbing everything now,” Calvillo, 38, said. “That is the one thing going through this whole process. I don’t want to wait until my career is over to understand the accomplishments our team has had and what I have had.
“Legacy has been brought up quite often. As much as I don’t want it to be the main focus, I know it is going to be there.”
For good reason. In less than a month, Calvillo will be heading to training camp in preparation for his 18th CFL season. Among his myriad feats, he has passed for 68,161 yards, putting him in shouting distance of the pro football record of 72,381, held by Damon Allen. No matter what, Calvillo should be headed to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame the day he does retire, but we know that’s not the way it works.
Calvillo didn’t give much thought to retiring after the 2010 season, health scare or not.
“I want to try to even up this Grey Cup record I have,” Calvillo said. “I’m 3-5 right now, and I want to try to make it 4-5. That’s the ultimate thing.
“I want to share more memories with my teammates. I want to continue to write this legacy because people always ask about it. I’m not done yet.”
For several years, the backdrop in Calvillo’s life has been cancer. His wife, Alexia, was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2007 but has since beaten the disease.
Calvillo’s most recent blood test was last Friday, and results were negative. Still, the psychological games that cancer can play with each sufferer has been no different for one of the best players the CFL has seen.
“When you have those blood tests coming up, you think negative thoughts, like it is back again,” Calvillo said. “I finally got what my wife was going through.
“It took me to go through my own process, but (this chapter) is never going to be closed. As much as I talk about it in the past tense, every three or four months when I have to go for my checkup, it’s just another reminder when that door opens again.”
That Calvillo agreed to be part of Dove’s campaign was another step forward for the Los Angeles native. Never has he been the type to chat up opposing players on the field before or during games, lest they see another side of the star quarterback. Opening his life, and his Montreal home, to cameras for Dove commercials was not a decision he made swiftly. The ads include his wife and daughters Athena and Olivia.
“I’m getting older, I got sick, my wife got sick, I realize we have to build our memories now,” Calvillo said.
And continue to build them on the field.
“I still enjoy the game, I am still playing at a high level and physically I am still feeling good,” Calvillo said. “As long as those three things are doing well, I am going to keep playing. And right now they are.
“I’m feeling great. I’m right on target right now, based on my training schedule leading into camp, I am looking forward to it, I really am.”