Esks counting on stoic Ray

Edmonton Eskimos' quarterback Ricky Ray (L) makes a pass under pressure from Calgary Stampeders'...

Edmonton Eskimos' quarterback Ricky Ray (L) makes a pass under pressure from Calgary Stampeders' Charleston Hughes during their CFL football game in Edmonton on Setp. 9, 2011. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

Gerry Moddejonge, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

EDMONTON - Ricky Ray’s arm just became a whole lot more valuable to the Edmonton Eskimos.

After losing star running back Jerome Messam to a knee injury for the rest of their playoff run, the Eskimos’ aerial attack becomes their top offensive weapon heading into Sunday’s West Division final.

But Ricky may not be the only Ray at BC Place Stadium this weekend.

“My father usually makes the trip up whenever we play in Vancouver,” Ray said of his dad, Steve, back home in northern California. “He hasn’t made it yet (this year), he’s been talking about coming up this week.”

It is from his dad where Ray gets his even-mannered visage — the one that never appears to get too excited or happy, but never dips down into anger or sadness either.

“He definitely brought me up that way,” said Ray. “He was coaching me a lot when I was young, whether it was football, baseball or basketball. He definitely instilled that in me not to be a showboat, just to go out there an play hard. Any of that other stuff, there’s no room for that.

“My mom’s side is kind of like the shy side, so that’s probably another attribute I get from my mom, is being a little unnoticeable I guess.”

Which is out of character when it comes to the quarterback position a lot of the time. Ray’s consistent calmness has even been confused for not caring enough.

“I think one of the main reasons why Ricky doesn’t get all the accolades that a lot of other quarterbacks do is that he’s so stoic about the way he approaches things,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “He’s not a very demonstrative guy, he’s going to go about communicating in a very calm fashion.

“That’s very important to a young football team, but his leadership is far more important and greater than what people give him credit for, and that has been vitally important to our success this year.”

Not that Ray doesn’t get excited. After all, he’s not a robot.

“We work so hard and when you make a play, you want to get excited,” Ray said. “You’ve got to realize what’s showboating and what’s being excited. But you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing out there when things are going well.

“Yeah, you want to have fun, but you’ve got to put 100% effort in every time.”

That effort turned into Ray leading the league with a 99.3 passer efficiency this year.

“He definitely instilled in me that you’ve got to practise, put in extra time and always want to win,” Ray said. “He wasn’t very happy if I was a kid out there just kind of going through the motions. He definitely instilled that you go out there to play hard every game.

“He just made me realize if you put a little bit of extra work in, it’s going to go a long way.”

In the end, it might not be as much about Ray’s arm as it is his level head.

IN AND OUT: RG Greg Wojt (ankle) did not practise again and is doubtful for Sunday. DE Julius Williams sat out Thursday as a precaution after taking a bump on the head the day before in practice, but didn’t show any symptoms that would keep him out of Sunday’s game, said Reed.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SunModdejonge


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