York alumni give Argos a boost

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:24 PM ET

Ricky Foley made history of sorts on Sunday -- along with teammates, Jeff Johnson and Andre Durie.

The kind of history players from York University aren't used to.

The three, alumni of the Red and White of York, now wearing the Double Blue for the Toronto Argonauts -- a case of the worst football program in Canada feeding into the country's oldest professional franchise.

"Three guys from York, is that right?" coach Jim Barker said, repeating the question and not certain how to answer. "It's important for us to have local kids. York has always had real good players, just not enough of them. We're excited to have local guys. But I never thought we had three guys from York. Wow."

He said "wow" about having three players from York, "wow" about his first real look at Foley as an Argo.

"Oh, Geez," Barker said, when asked to assess Foley's first game. "The first play I think he had a sack. The second play he had a tackle. He brought energy to everything he did. He played outstanding "¦ He can do so many things. We didn't have that high energy kind of guy (before). The energy Ricky brought was special."

This is what Ricky Foley of Courtice, Ont., and York University does: He makes a difference. He instantly demonstrated that much.

That may not have produced wins at York but it certainly helped the Argos at the Rogers Centre on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday, York lost, as it almost always does, this time to the almost equally inept University of Toronto Blues.

But on Sunday, Foley and two of his fellow York Lions were good enough to beat the rather inept Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Maybe next week, York should schedule the Bombers.

Once upon a time, Foley went to York U as a big, strong country boy who had never played football before.

"I was a walk on," he said. "It took me a while to figure out what I was doing. I don't think I played at all, except for a few plays, my first year."

He probably dressed for games because York didn't have enough players to have a complete roster.

"In my second year I started playing and it just took off from there."

The Argos won Sunday at a rather quiet and partially filled Rogers Centre with 20 of the tickets purchased by Foley. He was on the hook for family and some friends.

"For the rest, I told them they were on their own," he said.

The Argos are unique in any number of ways. They are a CFL team that wins in spite of its quarterback, not because of him. They win, taking monumental gambles on special teams. And they win, now, as an asterisk in the history of pro sports -- the first football team (unless we're completely mistaken) that has three York players in their lineup.

Some York players -- those who were there for the 47 straight losses between 1988 and 1995 -- never did win a game of any kind.

On Sunday, though, Foley, Jeff Johnson and Andre Durie -- connected by past and present -- played significant roles in the Argos win over Winnipeg. Johnson led the Argos in rushing with 62 yards. Durie caught three of Cleo Lemon's 14 dubious completions. Foley brought a desperation to an Argos defence that hasn't always been evident this season.

But for Jeff Johnson, who has kicked around the Argos forever in a variety of roles, this is all a matter of pride. Pride in his pro team. Pride in where he came from.

"It's a rough go (for York)," Johnson said. "There might be a player or two on that team right now. But you can get lost when there's not enough of them. I'll tell you something about that program, give it a chance. Let it develop. Look at us, look where we are.

"If we can do it, others can do it. Look at Ricky. He was phenomenal today. He's a heck of an athlete. From York University. Tell people that. Every time we play, we're representing York. Three of us here. That's something to be proud of."


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