Thanks a lot, Rick!

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:11 AM ET

Rick Worman tossed more than a few passes during his time with the Edmonton Eskimos in the late 1980s.

None, however, were bigger than the Hail Mary pass called Ricky Ray that Worman feathered into the open arms of Tom Higgins three years ago.

Were it not for Worman, Ray might still be delivering snack foods in California and the Esks may not have blossomed into the 2003 Grey Cup champions.

Nor would the 25-year-old quarterback be among the highest-paid players in the CFL, having just inked a three-year plus an option deal with the Esks worth $400,000 a season on top of a $200,000 signing bonus.

As one of five guest coaches attending the Esks training camp this year, Worman doesn't expect a red-carpet welcome from Edmonton's football fans or to be hailed as a super scout.

PURELY ALTRUISTIC

He doesn't even want a big thank you. Worman's motives were purely altruistic.

"I was just trying to help a player and I had relationships with people I respected," explained Worman in a telephone interview from his home in Fresno, California.

Worman was coaching the now-defunct arenafootball2 Fresno Frenzy and Ray was one of his quarterbacks.

When Ray displayed grace under pressure while toiling at the indoor game on a phone booth-sized field, Worman began thinking the young QB might flourish in the CFL.

That's when he picked up the phone.

Having served as Winnipeg's offensive co-ordinator prior to taking the afl2 job, Worman could have just as easily called the Blue Bombers or another CFL club.

Instead, he dialed his old pal Higgins.

The Esks bought Ray a plane ticket and the lanky pivot was a late addition to the training camp roster.

"They had been good to me and they gave me a couple of kudos here and there," Worman offered. "Before it's all said and done in life, I'd like to give a little bit of what I got back. Who knows where I'll be two or three years from now? You just try to be helpful to people that were good to you."

History will forever show Worman was extremely good to the Green and Gold.

And although Higgins has departed the scene, Worman now enjoys a close relationship with rookie head coach Danny Maciocia, which explains the guest coach invite.

In addition to his time with the Esks, Worman's playing career included two tours of duty with Calgary and a stop in Saskatchewan.

Given his ability to throw dart-like passes and scamper up field when necessary, Worman is still regarded as the prototypical CFL quarterback.

Watching Ray perform indoors, Worman knew he was staring at a CFL diamond in the rough and felt compelled to begin the cutting and polishing process.

'WASN'T HIS BEST FRIEND'

"I probably wasn't his best friend when he first met me and we were in training camp," recalled Worman, who broke into the CFL with Calgary in '86 and was the Stampeder starter until dealt to the Esks late in the '88 campaign.

"But the quarterback position is very special to me. My goal was to have my quarterbacks making quick decisions like they'd already been there before. Ricky bought into the system."

Not only did Ray buy into Worman's system, he took to the CFL like a duck to water after Jason Maas went down with a shoulder injury early in the '02 season.

Ultimately, Ray's poise and temperament, coupled with his natural abilities and the lessons learned from Worman, contributed to his success as a CFL rookie.

"He's got a unique temperament," Worman observed. "He doesn't get too high and doesn't get too low. That can be a positive if played the right way.

"Some people think the quarterback should be all fiery. You've got to be who you are, that's the biggest thing."


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