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November 26, 2014

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Ron Kantowski:

Grey Cup stirs memories of Posse

With the old Las Vegas team’s quarterback finally getting a championship, a few looks back at that brief, amusing run

Image

Ryan Remiorz / associated press

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo (13) tries to get away from B.C. Lions defensive end Ricky Foley during a playoff game Nov. 22 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

It seems like a lot of years since Anthony Calvillo made his pro football debut with the Las Vegas Posse of the Canadian Football League.

It seems like a lot of years only because it has been a lot of years.

In 1994 Calvillo, the most valuable player of Utah State’s 42-33 victory against Ball State in Las Vegas Bowl II the year before, signed a free-agent contract with the Posse. He was one of nine quarterbacks who reported to training camp in the parking lot of the Riviera. Keeping track of the Posse quarterbacks was like keeping track of the Canadian rock band Rush, if Rush had added three guitarists and a horn section.

I don’t know what became of Jeff Loots and Jason Verduzco and Fred Gatlin and Darian Hagan and William Robinson and Lee Saltz and Stacey Robinson and Robert Hall.

Anthony Calvillo went on to become the CFL’s John Elway, which is more impressive than going on to become the WFL’s Tony Adams or the USFL’s Bobby Hebert or the Jake Delhomme and Pat Barnes — the incredible Double-Headed Quarterback Monster — of NFL Europe, if for no other reason than that the CFL is still alive and kicking extra points while those other leagues are pushing up daisies. R.I.P., Shreveport Steamer. R.I.P. Boston, New Orleans and Portland Breakers.

Calvillo, 37, is the CFL’s second all-time passing leader. And after Sunday's game, when he rallied the Montreal Alouettes to a thrilling victory against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in a game decided by a field goal after time had run out, he again got to have his name etched onto the Grey Cup, the venerable trophy (what is it with Canada and its venerable sports trophies?) that goes to the winner of the CFL Super Bowl.

No one said “This One Is For A.C.,” which is what they call Calvillo in the Great White North and Vancouver, where it usually just rains. Or if they did, they said it in French.

Doesn’t matter. Of all the guys who have passed through Las Vegas on their way to something bigger, something better or, in the case of Canadian football and Monty Python, something completely different, Anthony Calvillo might be my favorite, and here’s why:

Around this time every year, Calvillo does something Calvillo-like, like win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award or lead his team into the Grey Cup, which they’ve been playing for like 97 years. Then Chris Berman will show the highlights on SportsCenter and, when Montreal is playing, he’ll try to pronounce Calvillo’s name in French.

And then I will be reminded of Nick Miletti, the eccentric owner of the Posse, calling a press conference to unveil the team’s mascot. An equine mascot. Forget The Four Horsemen. The Posse had The Eight Horsemen. If you thought the team could stink up a field, you should have been on the sidelines when those horses were feeling their oats.

I will be reminded of the Posse’s debut in beautiful British Columbia, where, despite multiple reminders there is no fair catch in Canadian-style football, Tamarick Vanover signaled for one anyway, and then trotted off the field oblivious of both the rules and that the B.C. Lions were falling on the ball in the end zone for what most likely was the easiest touchdown in their long and storied history. Later, Vanover caught a punt at his own 10-yard line and retreated through the end zone, giving the Lions a safety and possession when he thought he was only yielding a single point.

I will be reminded of the Posse adding a running back, Judd Garrett of Princeton, after Vanover forgot what country he was in. “It’s a hell of a game but it takes a genius to understand it,” Posse coach Ron Meyer said of the CFL rules variances. “That’s why we got the guy from Princeton to figure it out.”

I will be reminded of the Posse’s home debut at Sam Boyd Stadium, where a guy named Dennis Parks tried to sing “O Canada” to the tune of “O Christmas Tree.” As I recall, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was not amused.

I will be reminded of the Posse drawing a “crowd” of 2,350 — the smallest crowd in CFL history — for their next-to-last home game, against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

I will be reminded of a cost-cutting road trip where the Posse made nine stops in eight cities to play one game in Ottawa. I will be reminded of the bus driver who met the team at McCarran International Airport following a game at Edmonton — and refused to budge until he got paid.

I will be reminded that the Posse folded before their inaugural season was over, and the CFL saying you can’t do that. So it moved the Posse’s last home game of the season to Edmonton and paid for the team to make the trip while hundreds of Eskimos season-ticket holders watched the game on TV in a ballroom at the Imperial Palace because Air Canada also said you can’t cancel at such short notice.

Finally, I will be reminded of the 1995 dispersal draft in which the Ottawa Rough Riders selected Posse defensive end Darrell Robertson — only to later learn he had been killed in an automobile accident after the 1994 season.

The Rough Riders, upon discovering it’s difficult to win football games by drafting the deceased, folded after the 1996 season.

Had they selected Anthony Calvillo, they’d probably still be winning Grey Cups.

CORRECTION: This story has been changed to reflect corrections in Calvillo's career accomplishments. | (December 10, 2009)

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