There’s a lot of moving parts to a football team. But in the end, when it gets to the big game, there’s one guy.
“I think we’re going to go as far as we’re going to go on the basis of how Ricky Ray goes,” said Kavis Reed.
Uh, gee, thanks coach?
As if there isn’t enough pressure here, already?
“When I hear him say stuff like that, it’s what I expect. It’s what I want to hear him say,” said the 40,531-yard quarterback who will play his 12th post-season game Sunday in B.C. Place in the Western Conference final.
It’s a quarterback’s league. When it gets to this time of year, it has to be ‘Let everybody here step to the rear and let a winner lead the way.’
In eight playoff games, Ray is 6-2. He’s completed 161 of 258 passes for 1,982 yards. In three Grey Cup games, he’s won two, completing 81 of 123 passes for 984 yards.
In all, that’s an 8-3 record with 10 touchdowns vs three interceptions and a QB efficiency rating of 92.2 (103.2 in the Grey Cups). His completion percentage is 62.4 in the playoffs and 65.9% in the Grey Cups.
B.C. Lions’ Travis Lulay may be the 2011 CFL most outstanding player and all-star quarterback, but he has started one playoff game, lost it, and has a 56.4% completion record and 75.1 efficiency rating with two TD passes and two interceptions.
“Ricky’s been and Ricky’s proven. He’s been our leader all year and his experience is our biggest asset,” said Reed.
“He has two Grey Cup championships under his belt. He’s been in this position before. It’s not foreign territory for him, as was indicative of the way he played Sunday in the Western semifinal. When we needed a drive, he put together a drive. When we needed big plays, he put together big plays. The man is proven and that gives us tremendous confidence in our football team.”
Leadership isn’t a word you generally hear involving Ray because his mild-mannered, even-keeled attitude can be confused for being a negative instead of for what makes him tick and what makes him click.
But all year, maybe just in his eyes or with just a little different look to his body language, there seemed to be something just a little bit more jacked than usual.
“I didn’t ask him to be anything different in any way,” said rookie head coach Kavis Reed.
“But I was quite pleasantly surprised how vocal he was in meetings, especially to try help guys see what he’s been seeing. I was brilliantly surprised.”
Receiver Fred Stamps, who will be the only CFL All-Star going against nine B.C. Lions All-Stars Sunday, says Ray “has been a little more vocal this year” but not dramatically different.
“He’s our captain. He’s our leader. We all look up to him. The whole team knows Ricky Ray is going to show up and that if we all show up, too, we should win.
“As long as he gets some protection the sky is the limit for us. He’s going to make the decisions for us and make the right ones. With him at quarterback, you know he’s going to get the ball there. He’s going to get the ball to you and it’s not going to hurt your hands.”
It’s not just the guys on offence.
“Every year when we show up to training camp we think we have a chance because we have Ricky Ray, and we’re going to Vancouver believing we have a chance because we have Ricky Ray,” said Greg Peach.
“He makes throws that nobody else in this league can make. He never gets rattled. And he’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen. He has a calmness and consistency and he doesn’t get rattled, ever. You love to see that in a quarterback. With Ricky, you believe he’s going to find a way to pull it off.”
Ray doesn’t apologize for the way he is.
“I’m not a rah, rah guy. I think the best way for me to lead is to be myself. If all of a sudden I started yelling and screaming and making inspiring speeches, they’d see it wasn’t me.”
Ray is hoping the team will have the same hunger that they showed last week in what is a far bigger game — the get-to-the-Grey Cup game.
But Ray said players looking to him to be different this week or this Sunday won’t see it.
“I won’t do anything different. I prepare hard every week. I’m not a guy who needs to get pumped up.”
Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones