Longtime Canadian Football League quarterback Anthony Calvillo surprised very few Tuesday by calling it a career at age 41, five months after suffering a concussion.

Calvillo, who played 16 of his 20 seasons with the Montreal Alouettes, leaves the game as pro football’s career passing leader with 79,816 yards, having broken the record of fellow ex-CFL pivot Damon Allen.

"Today I would like to announce my retirement from this great game of football," Calvillo said, fighting back tears at a news conference at the Marriott Chateau Champlain Hotel in downtown Montreal. "It has been an amazing journey of 20 years, starting in Las Vegas, to my humbling times in Hamilton to the past 16 years here in Montreal."

He will remain with the Alouettes as an ambassador, working within the community and youth football.

Calvillo set all-time CFL records for completions (5,892) and touchdowns (455), with the completion mark second only to former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. Only Favre and current Denver Broncos signal-caller Peyton Manning have thrown for more TDs.

Calvillo competed in eight Grey Cups, winning in 2002, 2009 and 2010. After the 2010 victory, Calvillo revealed he was facing a cancer scare and had a complete thyroidectomy after the season before returning the following campaign.

He was also named CFL outstanding player in 2003, 2008 and 2009.

Praise from commissioner

Mark Cohon, CFL commissioner, issued the following statement, noting Calvillo not only is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game but one of the most remarkable people to grace the league.

"We know he has rewritten the record books, completing passes, throwing touchdowns, and leading teams to wins and championships, amassing a legacy as a player that is second to none. What we can't measure is how many lives he has inspired with his example of courage and perseverance. For all of his touchdown drives and comeback victories, his greatest triumphs have been over poverty and circumstance, disappointment and discouragement, injury and illness.

"He has shown us what it takes to be a winner on the field. Along the way, he taught us much about what it means to be a true teammate, a loving father and a devoted husband.

"All of us will miss AC the player. He is a singular talent.  But Canadians from coast to coast, and football fans beyond our borders, have also come to know Anthony the person. And that is why we have every confidence that he will continue to excel, in his career after football and in his life, most of all."

Calvillo passed for more than 5,000 yards in a season seven times in his career and twice had a record four receivers each gain over 1,000 yards.

A five-time CFL all-star, he began his career in 1994 with the now defunct Posse before spending three seasons with the Tiger-Cats.

Hamilton released Calvillo after the 1997 campaign, allowing him to sign with Montreal as a free agent in 1998.

Known for his game preparation, Calvillo studied the game thoroughly while possessing a quick release and ability to read defences.

Now, he is studying in a different environment, telling reporters he has returned to school. He is 15 credits shy from a degree in general studies.

Calvillo said he wants to enjoy this summer away from the game and would like to get involved in coaching in the future.

He dismissed a report this week that he turned down an offer to be the Alouettes' offensive co-ordinator.

With files from The Canadian Press