By Aram Tolegian, staff writer
Anthony Calvillo gave La Puente High School plenty of reasons to break its long-standing tradition of not retiring former athlete’s numbers. Over 70,000, in fact.
On Monday afternoon before a packed gymnasium, the school did just that by retiring Calvillo’s No. 13 jersey while he was surrounded by family and old friends.
Calvillo, a 1990 graduate of La Puente, became professional football’s all-time leader in passing yards last season as a member of the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes. He has 73,412 career passing yards.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know they were going to retire my number until yesterday (Sunday),” Calvillo said. “Then you find out it’s the first number to be retired here at the school, and it’s very heartwarming to see where you came from and that people are still very aware of what you’re doing.
“To come back and not only have me here but have my family experience this, it’s spectacular.”
Calvillo, 39, grew up in La Puente and was a standout in football and basketball. As a varsity quarterback, Calvillo led the Warriors to a 7-3 record his senior year, but due to an ineligible player, the team forfeited its wins and missed the playoffs.
After high school, Calvillo attended Mt. San Antonio College, where he became the starting quarterback by the middle of his freshman season.
Success at Mt. SAC led to a scholarship to play at Utah State, and that’s where Calvillo assumed his football career would end.
“I was planning on coming back to La Puente, where I planned to teach and coach,” Calvillo said.
Instead, the CFL came calling. By 1994, Calvillo was an established quarterback in the CFL and signed a free-agent deal with the Alouettes. Calvillo has piled up the numbers in Montreal and also has won three Grey Cups, the league’s championship, and three Most Outstanding Player awards.
Cancer threatened to derail
Calvillo’s bid for the history books after the 2010 season, when he had to have neck and throat surgery for thyroid cancer. But by last summer, Calvillo was back at it. The records soon started to fall.
This past season, Calvillo joined Dan Marino, Warren Moon and Brett Favre as the only professional quarterbacks to throw for more than 400 career touchdowns.
“I think it just really started to sink in once my football season ended,” Calvillo said. “I didn’t really have time to celebrate any of my records this past season, but just the recognition I’ve been getting … has been great.”
Calvillo lives in Montreal with his wife, Alexia, and their two children and has no plans of returning to the U.S. after retirement. When that is exactly, nobody really knows.
“There’s always been some thought of that because I know it’s going to happen,” Calvillo said of retirement. “Basically, I’ve told the organization that I’m year-to-year,” Calvillo said.
On Monday, though, he was a La Puente Warrior once again.
“Not only has he made it as a professional athlete, he’s also overcome battles,” La Puente football coach Brandon Rohrer said of Calvillo. “The best part about him is that he’s a great man. He’s a husband and a father of two. We tell our kids all the time that when you leave here, we want you to be productive citizens. He’s an example of that.”