TORONTO - Eight years ago, Anthony Calvillo started to get his Canadian Football League act together.
Was it a coincidence that Argonauts head coach Jim Barker then was the Montreal Alouettes offensive co-ordinator and quarterbacks coach?
“It was pretty much a turnaround year for myself in 2002,” Calvillo said Thursday in the lobby of the Royal York, not long after the Alouettes arrived in Toronto.
“We changed the whole offence around, and he was part of that growth. There have been a lot of people in my career who have helped me, and Jim Barker was one of them.”
There’s little doubt that Barker looks back on those days wistfully, and one can imagine how he hopes to have the same kind of success with Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon.
Calvillo did enough in the Grey Cup in ’02 that he was named the game’s most valuable player, but Barker didn’t stick around to watch Calvillo’s progression unfold. In 2003, Barker became head coach of the Calgary Stampeders, a gig that lasted one year before he eventually worked his way into the Stamps’ front office.
“To watch his evolution over the past eight, nine years, has been exciting,” Barker said. “He is truly a master of the CFL game. He understands concepts, he understands defences, he understands his strengths and weaknesses. Ben Cahoon is the same way.”
Ah, yes, Cahoon. He and Calvillo aren’t joined at the hip, it just appears that way. Of Cahoon’s CFL-record 1,014 catches, 903 have been on passes from Calvillo. The latter has thrown 383 touchdown passes in the CFL, and no one has caught more than Cahoon’s 60.
“They don’t claim to be anything they are not and don’t claim to do more than they can do,” Barker said, “and that’s what makes them great players.”
Calvillo can commiserate with Lemon, as Calvillo’s initial foray into the CFL with the Las Vegas Posse in 1994 was not without some big hurdles. But where Calvillo didn’t have much guidance from a coaching standpoint, he thinks Lemon is in good hands with Barker.
“You have to give (Lemon) credit,” Calvillo said. “He has put that team in a position to go to the playoffs. There are not too many quarterbacks who have come up here and have done the things he has done. Cleo is fortunate to have Jim Barker because he is a veteran coach who knows what he is doing.”