Source: Johany Jutras/CFL
One of the most decorated players in his Era retired this week, as Toronto Argos quarterback Ricky Ray hung up his cleats after 16 seasons in the CFL with the Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts.
Ray got his CFL start with the Eskimos in 2002. He replaced Jason Maas when he went down with a separated shoulder injury, Ray took over throwing 4 td's in his debut. Ray would take the starting reigns from Mass later that season and had a fantastic season, leading them to a Grey Cup appearance.
The next season he and Maas played musical chairs for the starting job, but Ray ultimately took the job and had an outstanding season compiling a career-high 35 touchdowns and close to 5000 passing yards. Ray brought the Eskimos to the Grey Cup again against Anthony Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes. In his first 2 seasons in the great white north, Ray threw 59 touchdowns to only 22 interceptions. Also going to back to back Grey Cup games, winning the Eskimos their first Grey Cup in over a decade. Ray was getting a lot of looks down south and went to the New York Jets. Ray only dressed with the team for 6 games and was benched in favour of Quincy Carter as the Jets number one quarterback Chad Pennington was hurt. Ray came back to the CFL the next season and was named the team's starter immediately.
In 2005, Ray brought the Eskimos to another Grey Cup game against the Alouettes for the third time in 4 years. It was a supershow between the league's best quarterback's. The first half was slow and low-scoring, but the second half both teams showed their talents scoring at will, which included a Grey Cup record 96-yard kickoff return by Eskimo player Tony Tompkins. Als kicker David Duval hit the game-tying kick with the time expiring, sending this game overtime. It was the first time a Grey Cup game went to overtime since 1961. Both teams scored touchdowns and the game went to double ot, a first in Grey Cup history. The Eskimos notched a field goal then shut down Calvillo on the next drive securing their second Grey Cup in 3 years. Ray won Grey Cup MVP and his legacy was already cemented.
Ray didn't win another Grey Cup for Edmonton after that entertaining 2005 Grey Cup. He still produced good seasons with the club and holds numerous club records including; career pass completions, passes thrown, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Ray also has a bunch of season and game records as a member of the Edmonton Eskimos.
When Ray was traded to the Argos I was really excited to see him in the double blue. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the time when Toronto acquired another legendary quarterback in Damon Allen.
Ray rose to the challenged and brought a Grey Cup back to the city of Toronto all while sticking it to the Edmonton Eskimos. In his first season in Toronto, he brought the Argos to the playoffs and exacted revenge and defeated the Alouettes in the East Final. Ray faced a familiar foe in the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th Grey Cup. With Toronto hosting the games Toronto upset the heavily favored Stampeders and once again Ricky Ray was on top of the CFL world.
Ray would miss most of the 2015-16’ season due to injury but would prove the critics wrong returning with a strong 2017 campaign. In Ray’s last full season he threw for 28 touchdowns, tied for the second most of his career and threw for over 5000 passing yards. His efficiency was still great completing over 70 percent of his passes.
Ray was looking like his old self again, carrying the Argos to the Grey Cup. Up against another stacked Calgary Stampeders team, the Argos were down heading to the 4th quarter of that game. Calgary figured out Ray in that game but the Argos came back and stole the Grey Cup from the Stamps. Ray became the first QB in CFL history to win 4 Grey Cups as a starter. While it seemed like Ray would have that perfect ending to a career like Peyton Manning or Ray Bourque, he surprisingly came back the next season but suffered a severe neck injury in just the second game of the season.
While Ray was still pondering on continuing his legendary CFL career, ultimately he finally retired.
At the end of his Career, Ray was a 4-time all-star and a 4-time Grey Cup champ. Ray was also a 3-time East Division Most Outstanding Player. In every major passing category, Ray ranks in the top 5 all-time.
In the past decade, the CFL has seen quarterback greats like Damon Allen, Anthony Calvillo, Henry Burris and now Ricky Ray retire from the game, ending a fantastic era of QB’s. With the stats he's put up, and the consistency he's shown in his career, we might not see anybody like him for a very long time. Ray showed up in big games and was a winner because of it. He was the CFL's ultimate competitor.