Calvin McCarty came into the CFL, hoping to play for 10 years.
Thirteen years later, the 34-year-old Eskimos fullback realizes how fortunate he’s been to surpass his unrealistic goal.
“I didn’t expect to come in and do it,” McCarty said about reaching the 200-game milestone last week at Hamilton. “I’ve been blessed and lucky to still have an opportunity to play.
“Me being able and open to doing other things has allowed me to extend my career,” he continued. “Availability mentally and physically, knowing your assignments and never stop learning.
“You can always learn and apply these skills and techniques to learn different things, so you always remain valuable to the team, whether it’s (playing) special teams or whether it’s me coming in being moreso a straight running back and then developing into a fullback/tight end/special teams captain.”
Canadian running backs Tanner Green and Alex Taylor, who were selected in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively, of the 2018 CFL Draft, couldn’t have asked for a better role model to emulate as they begin their pro football careers.
“Whether it’s on-the-field practice things or team spirit, team atmosphere, the kind of culture we want to grow here, he’s been at the forefront of it all,” said Green, a 26-year-old, second-year fullback with 17 games under his belt with the Eskimos.
“Honestly, one of the biggest things he’s taught me is just to relax. I came in last year as a rookie – and even this year – and I’m always so tense and high energy and, honestly, it ends up hurting me a lot more than if I would just slow it down and relax. He’s been a big part of helping me just chill out on the field, and I’ve played so much better because of it.”
Taylor, a 23-year-old rookie, can only imagine having a career as long as McCarty’s, but he’s glad the veteran is still around.
“Part of it is him being a leader and trying to set a standard here and trying to set an example for some of the younger guys like myself,” said Taylor, who has appeared in 13 CFL games this season, mostly on special teams. “I think he’s done a good job of that. A goal would be to stick with one organization and give your heart and soul to it and, hopefully, accomplish something like Cal’s been able to accomplish.
“But, for me, most of all, he’s shown me the way to conduct myself within the organization and even on the field. There was a situation right before we came off the field (during a recent practice). Tanner was talking in my ear, and I did something wrong, and then I did the drill. When I got back, I started to talk about Tanner and Cal just said, ‘Listen, sometimes you’ve got to be quiet and don’t say much. Just execute, perform and don’t say anything.’
“It’s just constant things every day that he’s sharing with me and it’s helping me grow as a person,” Taylor admitted.
While McCarty has a laidback personality, Taylor pointed out that his mentor still has a youthful energy about him.
“We say around here that he ages like fine wine,” Taylor said. “It’s true. You see it in the way he plays on the field, and you definitely see it in the locker room and in the facility with how he conducts himself. He’s still the most energetic and the most youthful guy. No matter what, no matter the situation, he’s always having fun.”
McCarty is the 107th player – and fourth running back – to play 200 CFL games dating back to 1936. The other running backs are former Saskatchewan Roughriders star George Reed (203 games from 1963-75) and two Canadian players – the Riders’ Chris Szarka (223 games from 1997-2010) and Jeff Johnson (an undrafted CFL free agent who played 234 games with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts from 2000-13).
“It’s not about 200,” McCarty said about his recent accomplishment. “It’s about being present when you come out here (on the field).”
McCarty remembers former teammate Mathieu Bertrand telling him to slow down and take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, after learning about the rookie’s goal to play for 10 years.
“Coach (A.J.) Gass used to tell me, ‘Find something every day in practice to learn and get better at so it never gets mundane doing these things,’ ” McCarty said. “ ‘And never stop learning.’
“It’s meant a lot to my family,” he added about his recent milestone game. “A lot of people have helped me here. My wife definitely. My kids. It’s everybody, man. It’s not just me who made it to 200. It’s everybody around me.
“My young bucks,” he said about Green and Taylor, in particular. “They give me energy in the morning … or sometimes, I have to give them energy in the morning.
“But I’m excited. I’m not going to say 200 more (games), but we’ll see how many more.”