Anthony Calvillo wore a look of deep satisfaction with the ball used to set the CFL's career passing touchdowns record safely stored in his locker.
"You play for a long time for a great team and these things are going to happen," said the Montreal quarterback after leading the Alouettes to a 40-17 victory over the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night. "I'm going to enjoy the moment."
The 18-year veteran lofted the ball to Eric Deslauriers at the back of the end zone 10:11 into the first quarter for his 395th TD pass, one more than Damon Allen threw in 23 seasons.
The near-sellout crowd of 24,698 under a full moon at Percival Molson Stadium rose to their feet as Deslauriers hauled down the record pass and just managed to keep his feet in bounds.
Play wasn't stopped for any ceremony, but it was delayed as 38-year-old Calvillo was mobbed by his teammates. The Los Angeles native, who had a cancerous thyroid removed in the off-season, knelt on the sidelines for a moment of prayer, then got a hug and a pat on the back from team owner Robert Wetenhall when he trotted back to the bench.
'Not done yet'
"I enjoy the fact that my name is going to be in the CFL records, but I'm not done yet," said Calvillo. "It'll be great when my career is over — whenever that is — to sit back and reflect, but it is something I'm going to appreciate now."
The record was briefly in doubt as the Argos challenged the play, but the score stood after a video review by officials.
Calvillo knew coming into the season that he had a shot at breaking three records that once seemed out of reach because of Allen's remarkable longevity.
He took care of the first one with dispatch, piling up eight TD passes in the first two games of the regular season to tie Allen, then hitting Deslauriers in the first quarter of the next game. He added TD pass No. 396 later in the game to Brian Bratton.
Next up are Allen's marks for completions (5,158) and then the big one, career passing yards (72,381). Calvillo needed 4,220 to catch Allen going into the season and already has 1,038 in the first three games.
The night was even more special because Ben Cahoon, the slotback who was Calvillo's favourite target for more than decade, was in the stadium to be honoured at halftime. Cahoon retired after Montreal's second straight Grey Cup title last November.
Deslauriers, who was only playing because Jamel Richardson was injured, was wide-eyed as he saw Calvillo's pass head in his direction.
"I thought 'Oh, the ball's really coming, catch it,"' said the Gatineau, Que., native. "I was just happy to be part of the game tonight, let alone catch AC's record-breaking touchdown pass and being part of history."
Deslauriers has caught only two TDs in his four-year career, and it was the first thrown by Calvillo.
It was the crowning moment of a game in which the Alouettes dominated on offence and defence, but struggled on special teams.
After Calvillo, the star was tailback Brandon Whitaker. He carried the ball 16 times for 120 yards and a touchdown and caught 11 passes for 94.
Late in the game, linebacker Chip Cox tied a CFL record when he scooped up a B.J. Hall fumble and ran it back 108 yards for a touchdown. That matched a fumble return TD by Saskatchewan's Omar Morgan against Winnipeg on Sept. 20, 2009.
Quarterback Cleo Lemon ran in a TD and hit running back Chad Kackert with a TD toss, while Noel Prefontaine added a field goal for the Argonauts (1-2).
The Argos closed the gap to 23-17 when Kackert scored on a 53-yard TD catch 8:55 into the second half, but turnovers, including one by Kackert, spoiled any chance of a comeback.
"We want to control the ball, not turn it over," said Argos coach Jim Barker.
After Deslauriers' TD, Chad Owens ran back the kickoff 89 yards. A flag took it to the Montreal 8, where Lemon ran it in at 10:50.
After trading field goals, Calvillo capped a 90-yard drive by drilling a six-yard TD pass into Bratton's arms at 12:15 of the second quarter.
It was 23-10 when Kackert, filling in for injured tailback Cory Boyd, got wide open down the right side for a 53-yard TD pass from Lemon 8:55.
But a Lemon fumble gave Montreal the ball on the 14 and, after an unlikely pass to offensive lineman Ryan Bomben, Whitaker ran it in from the two.
On Toronto's next possession, a Lemon pass went off Jeremaine Copeland's fingertips into the hands of Montreal's Cox to set up a field goal.
Things got worse for the Argos as they got the ball to the Montreal 1 with under three minutes to play. Back-up quarterback B.J. Hall was stopped on his first attempt to run it in and then got stripped of the ball by Diamond Ferri. Cox took the loose ball all the way back for a Montreal TD with two minutes to play.
Deslauriers' catch was the first passing TD allowed by the Toronto defence this season, while Kackert's reception was the first by their offence.