Foley knows he made the right decision

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:29 PM ET

When Ricky Foley showed up for practice yesterday as a Toronto Argonaut there might have been nobody more surprised than Foley himself.

By all accounts -- including his own -- he should've been in British Columbia. He should've been wearing the crest he had worn for four seasons and cavorting with the teammates he'd won the most outstanding Canadian player in the league award with; and, he should've been preparing to meet the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a game at Empire Stadium.

"When I decided to go back to B.C. (Monday night), my friends and family were supportive but there were also a lot of teary eyes. My parents don't like flying," said Foley, who lives on the family farm just east of Toronto. "After four years they wouldn't be able to come to my home games (going back to B.C.) and I know they were disappointed. After I saw that and their reaction I thought, 'Man, I can't do this.'""

Until then, the familiarity of the Lions had outweighed the lure of a hometown team he believed consisted mostly of strangers.

"It was the fear of the unknown. I guess I should have done better research. I know now. I went up there and talked to the guys."

Still, on Tuesday morning, B.C. coach Wally Buono thought he had re-convinced Foley, who became the CFL's hottest commodity when he was cut after tryouts with the Seattle Seahawks and the New York Jets in the NFL.

"My bags were in the car," Foley said. "I always knew it was going to be between B.C. and Toronto -- my home town or what I know. I knew it would be a hard decision."

But en route to the Toronto airport for the flight to Vancouver he stopped in at the Argonauts' training facility in Mississauga with his father.

The visit was a surprise to Argos' coach Jim Barker. "We'd made our best offer and we waited and he chose B.C. Good for him. And then, he had a change of heart," said Barker, laughing. "Then he had a change of heart ... Then had a change of heart."

The Argos had made their offer (reported to be about $165,000) and concluded it hadn't been enough to convince Foley to try a third new team in one year. Barker was at his bank when he got the phone call telling him Foley -- who had a career high 12 sacks last season and 51 tackles -- was stopping by the facility.

"I figured it was to tell me face to face (that he was going to B.C.). We talked. He didn't know me or the coaches. We got a chance to meet, went through the facility and he met some of the players and that's how it just came together."

Foley said yesterday he suddenly realized, "how many guys I already know on this team and it started to feel real good. Once I became comfortable what they expected of me, my role, then I was kind of like, 'Now what is it that's keeping me from staying home.'

"I came up with my dad and I figured, 'Yeah, this is home'. In the end, I know I made the right decision."

Money wasn't a major factor in picking Toronto, although they did offer more than B.C.

"I thought last year making 60-grand was a lot," Foley told a Vancouver newspaper when he thought he was going there Monday. "It's a lot of money to me. Maybe not to other people, but when you start talking six figures-plus, when I was growing up that was a lot of money."

The whole free agency process was confusing, Foley said. He realizes he messed it up.

"It's my first time going through (free agency) and it falls on me for unknowingly not being as professional as I should have been."

But it's also had its humourous moments.

"I'm still getting text saying congratulations on going back to B.C. Yesterday it was half welcome back and half glad you're staying in Toronto," he said, grinning.

In the end it was family that landed him in Toronto. As well, Andre Durie, with whom he played for two years at York University lobbied hard to convince Foley to join the Argos in a free agency that has been anything but smooth.

"The NFL was a pretty frustrating experience so just to get on the field ... it was feeling of relief. To be honest, coming out here, putting the pads on and running around with the guys, this is the first time in a long time I've felt really, really good," he said.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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