How My Childhood Shaped Me as a Father: An Interview with Anthony Calvillo

Anthony Calvillo

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: May 31, 2021

The pandemic has given one of the greatest football players in the history of the Canadian Football League — pause. “I think the biggest thing is it has gotten us closer to be honest with you,” says Anthony Calvillo, CFL Hall of Fame quarterback, referring to his immediate family which includes his wife and two teenage daughters.

“We’ve spent so much time together, inside our house and amongst ourselves, and it’s been great. We’ve always had family dinners together. And we’ve always had great conversations. But you know, now, it’s been multiplied ten-fold.”

Family has also occupied his thoughts for other reasons.

“I think about how I grew up,” Calvillo candidly shared during an interview with Lianne Castelino of Where Parents Talk. “Actually, during the pandemic, this documentary that they did on my life, we finally watched it with my girls. We sat down and we shared with them what daddy went through,” he says.



Click for video transcription

Welcome to Where Parents Talk. I’m Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a father of two and a Hall of Fame quarterback who spent 20 seasons in the Canadian Football League, and remains a league record holder in multiple categories. Anthony Calvillo led the Montreal alouettes to three Grey Cup championships, over 16 seasons with the team. He is currently assistant coach with the University of Montreal, his football team, the Carabins. Anthony Calvillo joins us from Montreal. It’s great to see you. Thanks for being thanks for being here.

Thanks for having Lianne It’s been a while.

It has been, you know, and I wanted to ask you, first of all about the pandemic, parenting during this time has certainly, you know, gained a lot of traction as a subject matter for a whole bunch of reasons. But I wonder how your family has coped and what has struck you about what you’ve learned about your family during this extraordinary time?

Well, I think the biggest thing is, it’s gotten us closer to be honest with you, we’ve we spent so much time together, you know, inside our house and this amongst ourselves, normally, we would spend a lot of time with our other family members. But, of course, we’ve been forced to kind of just stay within your own little bubble the most the most time that you can. And it’s been great. You know, we’ve always had, you know, family dinners together. And we’ve always had great conversations. But you know, now, it’s been multiplied by by tenfold. So, you know, the dinner conversations have been great. So you know, right now, the biggest thing is, we talked about traveling, right? We that’s one of our things that we love to do, and the girls just can’t wait to go back and travel on just to be together. So I think that at the end of the day, it’s definitely brought us closer, just because we spent so much more time together.

On that note, what would you say has struck you most about the current phase of parenting that you’re in, specifically, parenting two teenage daughters in this current time that we’re living in?

Well, I think the biggest thing that concerns us, this system makes sure that the kids are getting what they need it spending time with their friends. So yes, they are able to go to school. But then when they come home, they’re not able to spend a lot of time with them. So there was a balance between how much time we were going to allow them on their iPad, to not only do homework, but to spend time with their friends, because the only time they could spend time with their friends, of course is that school are spending time online like we’re doing on right now. So I think that’s been the biggest challenge is to make sure that they’re they’re not overdoing it. But at the same time, as a parent, we have to understand, well, they got to be able to spend some time with their friends as well. And the only time they could do it right now is online. So most girls have been great. They’ve had some some some outings with their friends going for walks and stuff like that. But I think the biggest thing is just to make sure that that mentally they’re doing okay, because this stuff that we’re all going through, that includes the parents is not normal. So we’re constantly talking to him to make sure that they feel comfortable what’s going on right now. And whenever there’s a new rule that comes up, or if the school is shut down for a little while, because of there’s a case that we’re communicating to this to make sure that mentally they’re doing okay.

Outside of the pandemic, you know, parenting teenage girls, in 2021 has a whole sort of, you know, list of unique challenges and unique things that you experienced as a parent, anything there strike you in terms of where you are on that journey.

Yeah, so both are girls right now, Athena, she’ll be 16 in July. And Olivia, of course,
is going to be 14 in there in October. So for us right now, you know, a lot of the stuff
is been, has been cancelled all these dances and events.
You know, the kids wanted to join a lot of sports, they weren’t able to do that. So we’re trying to keep them as busy as we can here at home.
So for us in terms of how things change, that things have changed for us, but we’re trying to make sure that they’re mentally strong, but nothing’s come up in terms of, okay, Daddy, I want to go do this. So do that.
You know, my other friends are the same age as me and they were able to go out at this time, but unfortunately, here we go back. We’re on a curfew in a lockdown after after 930 or eight o’clock at one point. So there wasn’t a whole lot that they could do in terms of that aspect. But I think as a parent, we’re trying to be as open minded as we can. Because like I said before the end it’s it’s the it’s the mental aspect of it. We want to make sure that they are one developing the weather supposed to develop as young women and that’s also spending time with their friends and doing things outside of the household. Right in I love my house. But I also want to get out and do some other stuff with other people as well. So there’s just a balance that we’re trying to do right now. But for the most part, it’s been very good.

Glad to hear that. How would you go about Anthony describing your personal parenting style?

Well, my personal parenting style is basically it’s a, it’s, it’s a team event between my wife and myself. You know, we’re always constantly talking about,
you know, how we grew up and the things that we were able to do. And it’s quite different, right? Like, we just had the conversation the other day with our kids, like, you know, you know, we didn’t have a timeout mat, our parents would spank us, right. That’s how it was back. And they in terms of our discipline, and we try to tell our girls like, Listen, I can’t imagine doing that to you guys now, but we also got to be able to communicate and be able to discipline when we need to discipline. So things have definitely changed how we were brought up. But I want to make sure that our girls understand that we do love them, that the things that we’re doing for them in terms of what they can and cannot do, is for their best interest, we’re always talking about, you know, making sure that they feel protected, and, and to be aware, to be aware of their surroundings, when they go out. And we tell them, Listen, we know everything’s fine, but you must be aware of your surroundings, what’s going on around you. Because you know, you just never know what’s going to happen out there. So we’re not there to scare our girls. But we are there to let them know that to be aware of what’s going on around them. And to be very careful online, because there’s a lot of people online right now that
that could take advantage of young girls. So we’re always trying to talk to them, like Be careful who you’re talking to, and what you what you’re doing online. And, and then and that’s very important for us.

Now, with respect to your childhood that you just refer to there, you grew up with brothers. So I’m curious, what did you do, if anything to learn how to raise girls?

Well, you’re right, like I had, I had two brothers and a sister. And I do remember my mom talking about because there was three boys first, and then she had the daughter, and she was like, What do I do? Like, you know, how is this gonna be different because we had the three boys beforehand. So I think just overall, as a parent, you know, for myself, whether I had a boy or a girl, I wanted to make sure that they felt comfortable, they felt loved. And they felt protected, right. So, you know, I have two nephews who my girls grew up with, they’re almost the same age. And I could tell you this, when they were over, my girls acted a lot differently. You know, because they would kind of just, you know, we’d be at the dinner table, they’re having fun, they’re kind of hitting each other. And then my girls start hitting each other. I’m like, What are you guys doing. And that was a big difference between that just based off of my experience between boys and girls. It’s just there’s a, there’s a physical aspect of Okay, let’s have some fun with it. You know, the girls were, you know, they wouldn’t do that when they were by themselves. But I think the biggest thing for us, me and my wife, Alexia, this, we just make sure that we communicate and what we feel is best for girls. And the one thing we tell our girls too is if we allow you to do something or not do something, just know that it’s in your best interest. And, and another family might think the opposite. But it’s what’s important for us and how we raise you and not to say that somebody else is doing it the wrong way. But for us, this is what we allow you to do and what we don’t allow you to do. And we explain to them why. If we don’t want them to do something, we explain that to them. So we just want to make sure that we’re looking out for their best interests. But you know, everybody’s household is going to be different.

Well, and it’s a very important point you bring up because a lot of kids and a lot of parents get trapped in that comparison issue. And then once you go down that road, it’s really hard to sort of, you know, bring it back and say, we’re not really concerned about whatever we’re else is doing. We’re concerned about what you’re doing. So, you know, it’s interesting to hear you say that, and I guess that’s the way it’s always been for you is is what you’re saying?

Yes, that’s just the thing, because we want to make sure that that we are communicating with them. And we tell them, you know why we don’t want them to do that. And they would bring it up? Well, you know, so and so’s parents allow them to do this. I’m like, well, everybody’s different in what they believe in and what they want their kids to do. And for us in our households. This is why we wanted to do this. So it’s been very important. But I think the dialogue that we have with our kids is been great as well because, you know, if they have a concern about something they would ask us and then we would give them the explanation. We wouldn’t just say well, that’s just the way we did it. So that’s what we were teaching you it’s no this is the reason why and this way, they have it better understanding of why they can or cannot do something.

You know, you became a father in your 30s while you were still setting CFL records. And you continue on that journey, and I’m wondering what has been a dad brought to your life that you were not expected?

Well, I remember, people always talk about like, you know, people will have kids, they would say, Man, you know, when you have kids, everything changes. And they would always say you, as much as we could tell you what’s going to change, you can’t, you won’t know until you experience it when you actually have your first child. And, and I didn’t understand that until I had Athena. And I remember holding her in the hospital, I’m thinking, my goodness, now I am responsible for this, this human being right, and I gotta do my best to raise her the best that I can. And, and to me, that was going to be very important. And yes, we had we had children later on. So you know, we were a little bit more, let’s say, established financially, at that particular points for us. But I think the biggest thing, just for me is, is looking back how I grew up, you know, the things that I saw in terms of domestic violence that I grew up in my household that I knew that that was something that I that went for it, and I want that for my family, or for my girls. So I wanted to make sure that I was gonna do everything in my power to make sure that I was going to raise them properly, and make sure that they felt loved and, and be able to communicate with me and show them how a man should treat a woman. And that was important, because as a father, I really feel that I set the example for what our girls are going to look for later on in life. And that’s constantly in the back of my mind. And my wife, you know, brings that up as well. Because sometimes I could be joking around with her, she’s like, Hey, you know, be careful what we’re saying, because the girl is going to think that that’s okay. And not that it’s bad. But I just want to make sure that they understand how a man should treat a woman.

It’s such an important message, obviously. And I wonder for people who are listening or watching this interview, who might not be familiar with your whole story, in terms of your childhood, how would you go about summarizing your childhood experience?

Well, I think the biggest thing is, you know, my father was an alcoholic, he was physically abusive to my mother, what we call domestic violence and, and we grew up that way. So and everything kind of stopped, or ended when I was around 12 years old, when my older brother David kind of put a stop to it, where he stepped in front of my dad and, and said, enough’s enough. And then my father was no longer around. So for for, for us to experience that, you know, that was our life. So to me, I always wonder this Is this normal is, is it normal for a father to be physically harming their mother is this what happens in everybody’s family. And, of course, as I got older, I realized that that’s not normal whatsoever. But I had, even though I didn’t have that example of a great father, I knew deep in my heart and in my soul, that that’s something that I did not want from my family. But I had certain people who helped me out like my high school coach, my college coach, Jim Zorn, who was my university coach at Utah State really kind of opened up my mind because he wouldn’t invite me any other quarterbacks to his house. And, you know, I would, I would see his interacting with his wife and his kids and, and he knew what my background was all about. And he’s like, Anthony, he goes, he goes, just because you experienced something, that doesn’t mean you got to go through it as well, or put your family through it, you have the choice to make a change in your family. So that always resonate with me. And that’s something that was always close to my heart that I wanted to do the best that I could for my wife and my kids, and and break this cycle of alcoholism and being physically abusive with with your wife. So it was very important for me that I, like I said, set the example the proper example that I feel for my girls.

You know, it’s interesting, because you talk about having those mentors around you. But it still takes a certain level of strength of character, to rise above it and just be determined not to follow the same path. And in your case, not just rise above it, but get to the elite level that you did, you know, which is extraordinary. So I’m wondering, what would be your message for other children or other families who might be in a similar situation right now about how they can flag the situation or this behavior? You know, what steps would you suggest that they take having lived it yourself?

I think the biggest thing is understand that it’s that it’s not normal. And I think growing up for myself, it was like, do I say something? Or do I not say something? And we did. And I don’t remember, specifically, if my mom or my my dad said, Listen, you do not say anything about this, this stays in house, it was just, I think, assume so I just kept all that in me.

And hoping that one day that that somebody would come and help us, right. And of course, it was my brother who did that. So, again, I think it’s important to talk about this with somebody that you trust, to let somebody know what’s going on.
And then, you know, seek help from there. You know, hopefully, there’s somebody whether it’s a family member, a church, somebody from your church, saw a teacher or somebody that you can find in and let them know. And then after that, I think the biggest challenge, I think, for myself was to, to find other examples of what a father should be or what a husband could be.

And I was able to experience that by just talking to somebody else and seeing their experience, as well. So, you know, that’s, that’s one way of doing it. But the biggest thing is just try to see if, if if you could kind of get some help somewhere. Definitely.

Now, you chose to keep this part of your story about your childhood, private for many years, until your 40s. And I’m wondering, what has been the impact on you and your family of coming out with this, you know, eight or nine years ago, that impact since then?

Well, I think the biggest thing just for our family, my brothers, my mom is we were finally able to talk about it out loud, right. So like you mentioned, it was a family secret for many years, the CFL did a documentary on my life in 2011. And that’s where this information came out. So we were able to share our thoughts and feelings. And it was very emotional. And the reason why we kept it a secret, because we just didn’t want my mom to relive it all over again. But she felt very comfortable talking about it going forward in the documentary. And the biggest thing personally, as we were able to talk about it, share our feelings.

My brother, David, myself, and my mom, my younger brother doesn’t have much of a recollection of what happened. And my sister was too young for it as well. But just for us, we were able to talk about it. And I think the biggest message was two things. One is we were able to share our feelings of how it affected us and then to, to give an example to other people who might be going through this right now and letting them know, like, hey, maybe if if I if I saw this are if I’m an abuser, there are people out there who went through it. And they didn’t fall into that same cycle, there are people who did, but found a way out of it by making the conscious decision to find help. And that’s all that we were trying to do is share our experience and hopefully could touch somebody’s life out there where they could make a positive change in their life.

Now having been around young men, you know, high performance athletes, locker rooms, almost your entire professional career, what observations, if any, have you made about the culture they’re in? And sort of how do you go about?
I don’t know, do you go about trying to intervene or make an impact on things that you might see or hear in that environment?

For me, I think I’ve always been a type of personal leader where you kind of just lead by example, right? So I think that’s very important. If you’re for myself as a quarterback being in that position, you know, what comes out of my mouth, how I conduct myself, people are going to look at that and say, okay, that’s something that I could I could do, whether it’s good or bad. So for myself, I knew that I wanted to make sure that I set the proper example. And I always think about my girls, right, the making sure that I’m doing the right thing for them. But if we’re in a locker room set, and a conversation comes up, it wasn’t a content thing where I thought about Okay, I have to make sure that I am I am saying or doing this, it was just, I was just doing what I would normally do. I respected my values, and what I believed in and and I just set the example from there. But there you know, there were like, you know, I remember with Marc trestman when he was our coach, like in our locker room, there was no music that could have the N word in it. There was no music that that could be degrading to women. He didn’t want any of that in our locker room whatsoever.

He was setting the example for the lot of guys that listen, what do you guys listen to what you guys hear, it’s important for me that that’s not in a locker room, because I don’t want to promote that are allowed not to allow you guys to hear. But it was important to him in that locker room that that was respected. And that resonated in me. So, you know, those are those little things where he was setting the example, as a leader that this is something that’s important to me, and I want to share that with you guys.
It’s interesting, because you know, in the time that you’ve been a dad, and also been part of these different sort of professional locker rooms and amateur athletes and that kind of thing, have you ever been tempted to, you know, offer your thought, even as you are leading by example, because sometimes, it’s right in your face, I mean, I’m just going to assume that it is. And so you know, the temptation to kind of let it slide, and hope that that person gets the message from something that you’re doing further down the line, it may not happen. So do you ever find yourself in that kind of position?
Not that I can recall off the top of my head right now.

You know, if there was something more, oh, it was something that I that I heard, or that I saw and said, Man, that that’s just not right, guys, you got to, you got to think about what you’re doing. I can’t recall that off the top of my head. But I can recall, I remember, many years ago, I was working out in the gym, and I must have been 21,22. And I remember seeing a gentleman arguing with the lady and he was being you know, kind of on her arm and pulling her and you could tell they were having an argument. And I was kind of stuck, like, you know, what do I do hear do and this guy was a big guy, right? Do I step in? Do I call the cops? Do I? Do I inform the security there? And then after like, 10 seconds, and they did they just stop? He didn’t hit or do anything like that. But that was an opportunity that I reflect back that, you know, should I had stepped in and be like, hey, you shouldn’t treat something like that. But I to be honest with you, I was nervous. I was scared even though I experienced that.

This was a he was a large individual. So I wish I will, you know, when you think back and I wish, you know, maybe I could inform the people at the gym, like just security, like, Hey, this is what I saw.

But that was the only time where I can reflect why saw something like that. And, and like I said it didn’t last long. But I didn’t I didn’t step in right away, right and say, Listen, you got to stop that this is not right. Where now I could tell you, I would hope that I would step in and say something. And, and hopefully that I don’t have to, hopefully I don’t have to experience something like that where I have to do that. But you know, now that people are talking about domestic violence, and there’s a lot of discussion about it, that the IRR people out there won’t shy away from it.

You know, anybody who’s followed your career, Anthony knows you that, that you are deeply committed professional, you know, family’s obviously very important. It has been for you since day one. But you’re also, you know, private and reserved individual. So I wonder, with, you know, talking about your childhood all those years ago, and now, you know, speaking out recently about domestic violence as a relates to the pandemic and those numbers, you know, quite high and in many parts of the world and in many cities, and including the province of Quebec, like why is it important for you to speak up on this topic? As a private person with such a public persona?

Well, I think there’s like you mentioned, I do, I’m pretty private, I keep to myself, but there are certain topics that are that are important, where you feel that you have to
lend your voice to this, like I mentioned earlier, so I believe up to date, there’s been 10 women that they believe who have died to domestic violence right now here and go back. And there’s a lot of discussions, a lot of programs that are now popping up and a lot of money that’s been that’s been put in place now to help those. So again, I just wanted to share my personal experience on what I went through, and how I was able to overcome it. Because at the end of the day, the more I believe the more people who have gone through this and talked about their experience could help somewhere someone down the road, whether it’s a young man who’s going through it, a young kid who’s going through it, a wife who’s going through it now might have the courage to say enough’s enough.

And that’s what it’s all about. And I know that it, it was a it had a major impact on my life, and I wish that people would have been taught about it and there would have been other programs when I was younger, but there from what I can recall there wasn’t.

So now it’s to me, I just think it’s just, it’s something that’s touches my heart. And I just wanted to share what I went through and how I was able to to overcome it. Not just me, but but my brothers and family as well.

Where would you like to see the conversation around this the societal conversation around this get to? And how far do you think we are from there? Because ultimately, part of this has to do with how we’re raising boys and how we’re raising girls, which you, you know, talked about your own personal experience. But where would you like to see this conversation? Ultimately go?

Well, I think you, you just talked about some very important is like each family is going to raise their kids the way they feel is important for them. Right?

They’re always going to set the example the parents going forward. But I think right now, the conversation that we’re having about domestic violence, yes, we’re talking about the women having shelters. And I’ve always stress that, you know, I talked about it, but I don’t have foot, I don’t have boots on the ground. Like there’s organizations here in our city right now, in every city, that that the government should be talking to to say, Okay, what do you need, and I think that conversation has been going on right now to help these families and, and there’s also talk and funding to help the individuals who are going or athlete, the the abuser, who are, who might be looking for help as well. And I think there’s programs out there for them, as well. So I like the direction or it’s going. But I think the key right now is to talk to these organizations who are dealing with the people, everything. I think that’s where the information needs to be, be at, and, and hopefully down the road in six months time, they could say things have improved. But I think in anything that you’re trying to prove that you’re always want to take it one step further. So I just hope we’re further advanced, now are in six months, and we are now when you you know, you see where we are. And you think about your childhood, I wonder and also about the coaches and people that sort of supported you along the way.

How do you look at your mother now being a parent yourself? And obviously, you know, your kids are in their teens? So but I’m curious, like, you know, as we journey through life, and certainly through parenting, I think we constantly look at our parents and what they did in different ways. So I wonder what your how you how you see your mother now?

Well, I always knew that she was very strong. Even after my dad left, because he was a, you know, she was a stay at home mother, there was four of us. But then once my dad was gone, and she had to go and work, so she was working full time and trying to raise four kids at the same time. And that could be very, very challenging. Because I remember, she always felt bad because she was always too She was always able to attend all of our games, because we played sports, all of a sudden, she will start at work. And now she can no longer attend all of them because she was too busy trying to support for kids at home. So I got a lot of respect for my mom, then as I do now, you know, because, you know, raising four kids and going with she she gone through was was was very, very difficult and challenging. So, you know, there’s a lot of respect, like I said, then, and of course now as well.

Finally, Anthony, what would you say that you are most proud of as a dad?

What am I my most proud of? Well, I think for myself, I think about how I grew up. And I actually, during the pandemic, this documentary that they did on my life, we finally watched it with my girls. We sat down and we shared with them what daddy went through. So I wanted them to see what I went through and my brothers and told them that this is nothing that I wanted for our family and, and we all have choices to make as we grow up to be the best parent that we can. So I think for me, I’m just I’m just proud of the fact that what’s the support of so many people, my coaches and family and friends over the years that they were able to help me not only to become a football player, but to become a father and to me, you know, breaking the cycle of law Call them and domestic violence. That’s always going to be the top of my list of things that I’m proud of.

Anthony Calvillo, thank you so much for your time today.

Thank you.


The Cavillo Family

Courtesy: Anthony Calvillo


When he became a father for the first time in 2005, Anthony Calvillo, was 33 years old, owner of one Grey Cup championship ring and exactly half-way through what would end up being 16 seasons leading the Montreal Alouettes football team.

The best was still yet to come for the Hall of Fame QB both personally and professionally. It started with the birth of his first daughter.

“I remember holding her in the hospital, I’m thinking my goodness,” Calvillo reflects. “Now I am responsible for this human being right, and I gotta do my best to raise her the best that I can. And to me, that was going to be very important.”

That commitment to his role and responsibility as a parent has only continued to deepen.

Anthony Calvillo

Courtesy: Royal

“I wanted to make sure that I was gonna do everything in my power to make sure that I was going to raise them properly, and make sure that they felt loved and, and be able to communicate with me and show them how a man should treat a woman,” the current Assistant Head Coach and Quarterbacks Coach of the Université de Montréal Carabins shared. “And that was important, because as a father, I really feel that I set the example for what our girls are going to look for later on in life. And that’s constantly in the back of my mind.”

It still is.

Perhaps more now than ever as dad to teenage daughters aged 16 and 14, whom he is raising alongside his wife of 19 years.


The pandemic has only strengthened what has always been an unwavering family bond. It has also brought the plight of other families — most of whom he will never know — into even sharper focus.

Isolation, quarantines, lockdowns and the ensuing stress fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for increases globally in domestic violence — resulting in death, injury, broken homes, irreparable damage and lasting scars. It is a subject Calvillo experienced first-hand.

Anthony Calvillo

Courtesy: Carabins de l’Université de Montréal Instagram

“I think the biggest thing is understand that it’s not normal,” Calvillo says referring to the domestic abuse he and his three siblings witnessed growing up in hard-scrabble La Puente, California, in east Los Angeles. The violent behaviour occurred in the Calvillo home at the hands of his father.

“My father was an alcoholic, he was physically abusive to my mother, what we call domestic violence and we grew up that way,” he says. That revelation came to light in 2011, in a documentary about Calvillo entitled, “The Kid from La Puente“.

Soft-spoken and private, Calvillo was in his early 40’s when the details of his tough upbringing became public knowledge.

The pandemic has him revisiting deep wounds. It comes with a steely determination to provide support to others enduring a similar fate — by continuing to share his lived experience with all its pain — during a dark time in history.

Screenshot from our interview

Anthony Calvillo discusses fatherhood, his childhood, the impact of the pandemic and more with Lianne Castelino.

“I think it’s important to talk about this with somebody that you trust, to let somebody know what’s going on,” he says.

Current estimates show domestic abuse cases have almost doubled year-over-year in Canada, in certain regions since the onset of COVID-19.

According to Statistics Canada, cases of family violence were up for the third consecutive year in 2019before the pandemic took hold.

“There were approximately 400,000 victims of police-reported violent crime in Canada in 2019. Of these, one-quarter (26%, or more than 100,000 people) were victimized by a family member—that is, a spouse, parent, child, sibling or extended family member perpetrated the violence. Women and girls accounted for two-thirds (67%) of all victims of family violence in 2019,” the Statistics Canada report revealed.

Calvillo says football, mentors and his own determination saved him from repeating his childhood history.

CFL Quarterback Calvillo

Courtesy: Carabins de l’Université de Montréal Instagram


Staring adversity square in the eye has been an undercurrent in Calvillo’s life — both with and without a football in his hands.

A lean, slender athlete, he spent a career eluding and absorbing bruising hits from larger opponents, demonstrating a longevity and consistency that was widely considered remarkable for his position and stature.

Just days after delivering their second baby in 2007, his wife Alexia, was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma and non-Hodgkins cancer of the lymph glands. Calvillo briefly left the game to support her in recovery.

In 2010, not long after leading the Alouettes to the franchise’s second Grey Cup, Calvillo revealed that doctors found a cancerous lesion on his thyroid. It was removed through surgery, and he would come back the next season.

Deciding to reveal intensely personal details about his upbringing along with his mother and siblings, accepting the consequences of that disclosure and ripping the band-aid off a dark period as a young boy — could have only been wrenching.

“I’m pretty private. I keep to myself, but there are certain topics that are that are important, where you feel that you have to lend your voice,” he says the 48-year-old.

“It’s something that’s touches my heart,” he continues. “And I just wanted to share what I went through and how I was able to to overcome it. Not just me, but my brothers and family as well.”

The Calvillo family

Courtesy: Anthony Calvillo

During his interview with Lianne Castelino of Where Parents Talk, Anthony Calvillo also discusses:

  • What stopped the cycle of domestic abuse he witnessed in his childhood home
  • His mentors in football and life
  • How he prevented his abusive past from becoming part of his future story
  • Raising girls today
  • What he is most proud of as a father
  • His parenting style
  • Football locker room culture

Related links:


“Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2019′ (Statistics Canada)

Assaulted Women’s Help Line

Ending Violence Association of Canada

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