June 12, 2024

Hogan: Ray Becomes an All-time Argo

He is among the least likely of superstars.

Ricky Ray was not blessed with tremendous speed, nor was his arm ever among the strongest in the sport. When compared to some of the top players in the history of the CFL he may have been the least vocal.

But few could throw the ball as accurately.

The man born in Happy Camp, California found out about his most recent honour in a perfect way for someone who never sought the spotlight; he missed the initial call from the president of the Argonauts Alumni Association.

Stacey Coray was going to let Ray know his fellow alumni had voted him to become an “All-Time Argo,” the highest recognition a player can be awarded, shy of having his number retired.

“He left me a message,” Ray told Argonauts.ca from his home in Redding, California. “I was like ‘I wonder what this is about?’ I called him back and he said I had been selected to be an All-Time Argo. I’m super excited.”

From high school and community college halls of fame to the Edmonton Elks Wall of Honour to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Ray has received virtually every post-career recognition he’s been eligible for, save one. That will be rectified on June 28th when the quarterback that led Toronto to Grey Cup titles in 2012 and 2017 will become the 27th player honoured as an All-Time Argo.

His CFL journey began with nine years in Edmonton before a trade to Toronto in December 2011 that shocked everyone, including the QB.

“When I got traded, I was pretty nervous about going to Toronto,” he admitted. “I was also excited for the opportunity to hit the refresh button and not start over, but get a fresh start, learning some new things playing for Coach (Scott) Milanovich. I was definitely very excited to go along with that move, I just think I was more nervous about going to a new team, new coaches, new players, you’ve got to prove yourself all over again.”

Yes, Ricky Ray could get nervous, something those privileged enough to watch him play may not have thought possible.

He was always stoic on the field. If you focused on the quarterback, you’d never know what the score was. Ray could have thrown his fifth touchdown pass or his fourth interception and you’d never be able to tell which via his body language.

His first pass of the 2012 Grey Cup was intercepted, but he didn’t flinch. He just went about his business and led the Argos to the 100th Grey Cup championship, his third of four as a starter. No other quarterback has ever done that.

Ray’s two CFL teams are rich in history. Each has had several star players at his position, yet he still holds the record for career passing yards and touchdown passes on both teams, a feat not duplicated in either the CFL or NFL.

“Toronto and Edmonton, there’s a lot of championships between those organizations,” said Ray. “They’ve had a lot of great teams, a lot of great players throughout their history; just to be a little, small part of each of those organization’s histories is pretty awesome and to win championships, I feel so fortunate to have had that experience.”

As expected, Ray was modest when talking about his contributions to the two franchises for which he starred. While his statistics won’s change, his contribution to the current CFL is an obvious one. Four of the league’s starting quarterbacks, Zach Collaros, Trevor Harris, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, and Cody Fajardo, all entered the league as a backup to Ray, able to learn the game from one of the best to ever play the position.

“That’s what keeps me connected to the game now that I’m not playing,” said Ray. “To keep up with those guys that I played with in Toronto.”

He’s also thrilled to see a pair of his former Argo receivers, Chad Owens and S.J. Green, joining him in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame this year.

Aside from occasionally speaking to the players at Shasta High School, his alma mater, Ray is out of the football business, though he did at one time consider coaching as a post-playing career.

Instead, he’s now scratching his competitive itch by distance running and cycling; from marathons and a 20-mile trail run last year, to a recent 100-mile bike ride, it’s given him athletic goals that that the gridiron no longer provides.

The football memories, however, are sweet. They’ll be celebrated on June 28 when Ray joins the best in Double Blue history when he becomes an All-Time Argo.