LOGAN, Utah --This weekend, hundreds of Utah State students will walk across the stage in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum to collect their diplomas. In that group of soon-to-be graduates is a man who is no stranger to Aggie fans.
In 1993, Anthony Calvillo led Utah State to its first bowl win with a 42-33 victory against Ball State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Calvillo ended his college career as the MVP of that game and instantly switched his focus to his impending professional career.
In that transition period, school became less of a priority and he left Utah State 15 credits shy of his degree. Now, 21 years later, Calvillo has retired from the Canadian Football League. He is the all-time leader in all of professional football with 79,816 passing yards and is one of just five professional quarterbacks to have thrown more than 400 career touchdown passes.
With that phase of his life over, Calvillo decided to return to his education and finish his degree.
Talk about the process of finishing your degree at Utah State and how that started.
“I left school 20 years ago. When I was playing football here in Canada, it just wasn’t ever a top priority for me to finish. I was always concentrating on getting ready for the next season. The seasons kept adding up until last year when I knew I was going to retire. I decided to look into returning to school. The best option was to do a general studies bachelor’s degree and finish those 15 required credits. It just came down to wanting to finish and now it was a priority. I wanted my kids to see me graduate on stage. I have two girls who are 8 and 6. It was important that they have that visual of me walking across the stage. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Can you describe the sense of accomplishment you feel by earning your collegiate degree?
“I still have one paper to write, so all I’ve been thinking about is actually finishing. I think that once I get there, it will set in a bit. I don’t usually get too excited or emotional about anything at all. Once I get there on Saturday it will probably sink in, but right now all my focus has been on finishing and getting it done. I was never the best student, just always an average C student. I wanted to try and get A’s in these classes and I’m pretty close to doing that. That’s part of the pressure I put on myself, to do more than what I used to do.”
Do you plan on using your experience to influence/encourage others that this can be done, regardless of how long it has been since they have been away from their university?
“There are a lot of guys that I played with who didn’t finish school. I was encouraging them to go back during the offseason. Do your training and go back to school. Don’t wait until you’re 40 years old to do it. Get it done, then when your football career is over, you’ll have a smoother transition going into your next phase of life. It’s all about prioritizing things and that’s what I try and stress to the younger guys. It’s up to them if they’re going to take that advice or not.”
Did playing professional football for 20 years help in the decision-making process to return to school to finish your degree?
“I want to go into coaching and I know that down the road if I want to coach at the university or high-school levels, I’d need a degree. That added in as a factor. I really believe it’s going to give me more options in the future. The fact that I’ve been able to play professional football for 20 years and establish myself, that’s the new standard for me. It’s important to me that whatever resume I put out there, whether that’s my football game or my grades, it has to be something I’m happy with. I’m very happy with what it is right now.”
Do you plan on pursuing a post-football career immediately?
“I’m taking the year off, that was always the plan. I’m going to enjoy the summer. Playing football for 20 years I haven’t had a summer off because our season ran from June to the end of November. Right now all my time has been spent on school, so now that I’m done I’m going to concentrate on getting my house in order and we’re going to travel. My wife’s family is from Europe, so we’re going to go there for five weeks. We’ll spend time in Paris, Germany and Greece. That’s what I’m really looking forward to, taking the summer off and enjoying it. When I return to Montreal at the end of August, I’ll be more involved with the Alouettes. I won’t go into coaching right away, I’ll probably do that in 2015.”