MONTREAL -- It's been the biggest mystery in the CFL for years: How is it that Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo doesn't seem to age?
With his appearance against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Week 1 last Thursday at Investors Group Field, the 40-year-old Calvillo joined just six other players in the history of the CFL to have played at least 20 seasons in the league.
Not surprisingly, four of the other six players on that list are kickers -- Lui Passaglia, Bob Cameron, Hank Ilesic and Paul McCallum. The only other QB on the list is also an all-time CFL great -- Damon Allen.
So the question was put directly to Calvillo Wednesday as his club went through its final preparations in advance of hosting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers here tonight:
How come the rest of the world ages except for you?
'Oh, I age. But I've learned over the years that being on a great team, being surrounded by great talent and, honestly, taking care of my body and what I put into it has made a big difference'
"Oh, I age," Calvillo laughed. "But I've learned over the years that being on a great team, being surrounded by great talent and, honestly, taking care of my body and what I put into it has made a big difference. And I learned that about 5 years ago."
To hear Calvillo explain it, there is no magic elixir that has him, at age 40, still playing as well as he ever did, unless you consider a brutally tough off-season workout regimen to be some kind of magic.
To hear him explain it, Calvillo is as uncompromising in his off-field preparations as he is in his on-field play.
"I'm just trying to stay one step ahead of everyone else. That's one thing that always stands out in my mind -- I have to try new things to try and stay one step ahead of everyone else."
Calvillo could be excused if he had decided to coast during the twilight years of his career -- and perhaps never more so than this past off-season.
Playing with a torn labrum on his non-throwing shoulder for almost the entire 2012 season, Calvillo still threw for 5,082 yards -- the seventh time in his career he eclipsed the 5,000 yards mark -- and was named a CFL all-star for the fifth time in his career.
With former Als field boss Marc Trestman leaving last winter to take a job with the Chicago Bears, there was speculation Calvillo might seize the moment to finally announce his retirement.
Instead, he signed a new contract -- one year plus an option -- and then ramped up his off-season workout regimen to an entirely new level.
"I've always worked out in the past with a personal trainer five times a week -- Monday through Friday," Calvillo explained.
"This year, I wanted to add to that so I started also working out with the Alouettes on Wednesdays and Fridays, so that it was like a double day for me. So I worked out in the mornings with the Alouettes and go run with them and then in the afternoon go do a workout with my trainer.
"So that was my way of saying, 'OK, I've never done this before and I want to push myself a bit more to make sure I was in the best shape possible.'
"And it hurt -- it did hurt. But overall, I actually felt great during camp and I'm feeling great right now, even being hit the way I was last week."
Calvillo spent an uncustomary amount of time on his back last week -- he was sacked four times by the Bombers for the first time in recent memory -- and yet still found a way to rally his troops for a 14-point run in the fourth quarter that gave the Als a 38-33 come-from-behind win.
Of course, subjecting your body to uncompromising workouts all winter is no guarantee of longevity or staying healthy. Following in Calvillo's footsteps, Bombers QB Buck Pierce also ramped up his off-season workout regime last winter to unprecedented levels in a bid to stay healthy and end the spate of injuries that has seen Pierce start just 28 of his club's 54 regular-season games during the past three years.
But no sooner did a leaner and meaner Pierce return to the field last week than he had his left ankle rolled on, leaving him hobbling the rest of the game and causing him to miss practice last Sunday.
So maybe there is a little magic -- or maybe just old-fashioned luck -- that Calvillo has also been sprinkling on all those off-season workouts, not to mention fruits and vegetables, all these years?
"For me, I just try to be open-minded and have a great nutritionist and a great wife who can cook all this stuff," said Calvillo.
"All that stuff comes into play."
And comes to play -- for two decades now, and counting.