When Ricky Ray arrived in Edmonton back in 2002, he was listed as the third string quarterback behind incumbent Jason Maas and Bart Hendricks. As I watched that training camp, there was one thing that was clear. Ricky Ray had a ‘touch’ that allowed him to put the ball where only his receiver could get it. I remember the first time I saw Ray throw what some would say was his “signature” corner route and I knew the Eskimos had found someone special.
Ricky Ray made his Eskimo debut in week four against the Saskatchewan Roughriders after Jason Maas suffered an injury. He got his first CFL start the following week against the visiting B.C. Lions where he went 21 out of 28 for 277 yards and four touchdowns as the Eskimos defeated the Lions 37-27. Maas’ injury would keep him out for the rest of the year and Ricky would go on to complete 63% of his passes for 2991 yards, 24 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. The Eskimos lost the Grey Cup at home that year to the Montreal Alouette’s, but it set the table for an interesting 2003 season.
When training camp opened in 2003, Ray and Maas were supposed to battle for the starting quarterback job. Unfortunately, a back injury to Maas during the off season was severe enough to keep him from competing for the job. Ray started all 18 games that year even though Maas had healed by the midpoint of the season. The Eskimos returned to the Grey Cup for the second year in a row and this time they defeated the Montreal Alouette’s in Regina to win the team its first championship in 10 years!
I attended the celebration in downtown Edmonton after that Grey Cup win and still remember the crowd chanting for Ray to stay, but his desire to pursue his NFL dream was too strong. He signed with the New York Jets that off season and spent 2004 with the team but never got a chance to show what he could do. He returned to the Eskimos in 2005 and once again was the starting quarterback and lead the team once again to a Grey Cup Championship in Vancouver.
Jason Maas was the one who made the call to Ricky to tell him about being chosen as the 31st player to go up on the wall of honour. Jason and Ricky have enjoyed a friendship for almost 20 years and for Maas to be the one to make the call was the perfect choice. Here is a link from the Eskimo site…