CALGARY — Another year, another CFL outstanding player award for Anthony Calvillo.
The Montreal Alouettes quarterback received the league’s top individual honour Thursday night for the second straight year and third time in his illustrious 16-year career.
“It just blows me away because I remember where I came from,” Calvillo said. “I was from California, a little Mexican kid probably not more than 145 pounds.
“I didn’t know anything about the CFL until someone gave me a call. I think of the whole process and it humbles me.”
Calvillo received 44 of 55 ballots in voting conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada and the CFL’s eight head coaches. Calgary Stampeders tailback Joffrey Reynolds, who ran for a league-best 1,504 yards, was the West Division finalist.
Calvillo, 37, becomes just the fourth player in league history to win the award three or more times, joining Canadian Football Hall of Famers Jackie Parker, Russ Jackson and Doug Flutie.
“I remember watching Doug Flutie when I came into the league and I wanted to be an elite quarterback,” Calvillo said. “It (winning award three times) is something I’m always going to remember in my living room and seeing these trophies.
Calvillo enjoyed a banner ’09 season, completing a stellar 72 per cent of his passes in helping lead Montreal to a CFL-best 15-3 record. His passing completion average was his best since coming north of the border in 1994 with the expansion Las Vegas Posse.
Calvillo also finished the season with a league-high 108.4 quarterback rating that exceeded last year’s mark, and threw just six interceptions in 550 pass attempts, the fewest picks given up by a CFL starter.
Calvillo said a stringent off-season training program was a big reason for his success this season. And while he wants to continue playing, he’ll again take the off-season to re-evaluate his future.
Calvillo was one of three Alouettes to receive awards as Scott Flory was named top lineman and kick-returner Larry Taylor captures special-teams honours. Defensive end Anwar Stewart and slotback Ben Cahoon were finalists as top defensive player and top Canadian, respectively.
All five Alouettes will be in action Sunday when Montreal faces the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 97th Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium (TSN, 6 p.m. ET).
The other award winners included Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive end John Chick (defensive player) as well as defensive end Ricky Foley (Canadian) and tailback Martell Mallett (rookie) of the B.C. Lions.
Wally Buono, the B.C. Lions head coach and GM, received the commissioner’s award for outstanding contribution to Canadian football. Buono completed his 20th season as a CFL head coach, becoming the winningest coach in league history (235 wins). Buono, 59, also was a linebacker-punter with the Alouettes from 1973 to ’82 before becoming an assistant coach with the club in ’83.
“I never thought of what I did as a contribution,” Buono said. “I thought it was something I was very fortunate to do for 37 years as a player, coach and assistant coach and I got paid to do it and the CFL gave me that opportunity.”
Marwan Hage of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats received the Tom Pate award for outstanding community service.
Calvillo has flourished the past two seasons under head coach Marc Trestman’s pass-first offensive approach and it’s no coincidence the Alouettes find themselves in the Grey Cup for the second straight year and seventh time since 2000. But Montreal has won just one championship over that span.
Calvillo’s experience alone creates a huge challenge for a defence, because there’s precious little he hasn’t seen during his stellar CFL career.
With a solid supporting cast around him, Calvillo is a master of not only finding the open receiver, but also spreading the wealth. Montreal had three 1,000-yard receivers this season and the presence of tailback Avon Cobourne gives Calvillo a running back who’s a rugged rusher, but also a solid part of the passing game.
Calvillo also anchored an offence that led the CFL in scoring (33.3 points per game), passing (288.4 yards), touchdowns (50) and passing TDs (33).
The six-foot-three, 250-pound Chick was a force for the Riders’ defence, finishing fourth overall in sacks with 11, just one behind league-leaders Foley, teammate Stevie Baggs and Montreal’s John Bouman. Chick also added 32 defensive tackles and two fumble recoveries and received 31 first-place votes.
Making Chick’s accomplishments more impressive is that he has type 1 diabetes.
The six-foot-two, 245-pound Foley had the unenviable task this season of replacing Cameron Wake, the former CFL sacks leader who signed in the off-season with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. The native of Courtice, Ont., received 31 first-place votes after performing admirably, finishing the season tied for the league lead in sacks with 12 his first season as a CFL starter despite playing with a broken thumb.
Taylor, who received 36 first-place votes, was tops in the CFL with 788 punt-return yards and two TDs and third in kickoff returns. He also returned a missed field goal for a TD against Winnipeg, which Taylor said was his season highlight.
Jason Aragki of the B.C. Lions, a native of Oakville, Ont., who finished second overall with 35 special-teams tackles this season, was the finalist.
Flory, 33, of Regina, received 37 first-place votes to become the third straight player to win this award in consecutive years, joining Saskatchewan’s Gene Makowsky and former Lion Rob Murphy. The six-foot-four, 300-pound University of Saskatchewan grad, a six-time CFL all-star, was part of a Montreal offensive line that helped the Als lead the CFL in scoring (33.3 points per game), passing (288.4 yards per game) and total yards (390.3 per game).
Ben Archibald of the Calgary Stampeders was the runner-up.
The six-foot, 195-pound Mallett, who received 35 first-place votes, had a sensational first season with B.C., rushing for 1,240 yards and eight TDs. Mallett, 23, ran for a club-record 213 yards against Montreal on Sept. 4, 2009 and said when he reported to the Lions’ camp in June simply wanted to make the team.
Defensive back Jonathan Hefney of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was the finalist.