Five years ago, Kevin Glenn stood on the sidelines at Rogers Centre green with envy.
With his left arm in a cast, there was nothing Glenn could do but help instruct fellow quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Gang Green took advantage of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers pivot’s first start, with James Johnson picking off Dinwiddie three times.
It took five years and two team switches for Glenn to get back to the Grey Cup. Then it took Drew Tate suffering a fractured arm (the same injury that sidelined Glenn) for the veteran quarterback to get the starting nod again.
The irony isn’t lost on Glenn, and he’s soaked up every moment of the 100th Grey Cup week following a thrilling West final victory in Vancouver.
Glenn took endless questions from the media this week, but on Sunday, when he faces the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup, he will ready.
“I thought if I ever got back to that game, I wouldn’t take anything for granted,” Glenn said. “Things happen for a reason. Sometimes as athletes, when things happen to us, the first thing that comes to mind, the question we ask is why?
“Sometimes it take five years to get that answer.”
The matchup of quarterbacks is the most interesting part of this Grey Cup, as the Stampeders face a familiar foe on the other side.
Ricky Ray has played the Stamps in numerous big games, but usually those are saved for a doubleheader in early September. While with the Eskimos, Ray did have a 2-1 playoff record against Calgary, including last year’s West semifinal win in Edmonton.
That loss prompted the Stamps to make a move with their quarterbacks, as Henry Burris was traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in exchange for Glenn and offensive lineman Mark Dewit.
The Burris-Glenn deal came a couple weeks after the Argos made the biggest splash of last off-season when they dealt a package of players and draft picks to the Eskimos for Ray.
While Ray’s start with the Argos was up and down, he returned after a late-season knee injury on fire, and he was in fine Ricky Ray form in the past month.
When Ray is hot, he stands in there with pressure and delivers accurate deep balls or perfect check-down passes.
All he’s done in the post-season is put up a 120.1 passer rating, which confirmed to first-year head coach Scott Milanovich the Argos knew what they were doing in fleecing the Eskimos.
“I watched a couple of games against Calgary before the trade happened,” Milanovich said. “They were having a tough time protecting him. The thing that impressed me, that’s always impressed me with Ricky, even though it wasn’t his best two games, but he found a way to win those.
“He hung in there and found a way to win even when it wasn’t pretty. That’s the mark of a champion. That’s the mark of a guy who can lead your team to a Grey Cup.”
Ray has led his teams to the Grey Cup, but it seems long ago now. In his first three CFL seasons over a four-year span, the Eskimos’ final game of the year was for a title.
Twice Ray led them to victories (2003 and 2005), with the last one being an OT thriller over the Montreal Alouettes where he was named MVP.
“For the last six years, I’ve wanted to retire after every year,” Ray said. “When you don’t make the Grey Cup, it’s not fun. You try to get there every year. To be back and have that opportunity again after such an up and down six years it just feels good.
“This is what we play for, to have this opportunity.”
Glenn has been fighting for this chance ever since he put a team in the Grey Cup but couldn’t play. He never thought about retiring, because the drive to get back was too strong.
The Detroit native could probably walk away from football and have a nice life because he’s already set up a job for his post-playing days. Glenn and his wife are franchisees of two Tim Horton’s locations in Michigan.
Getting another chance at a title is all he wanted, but he feels young at age 33 and plans to keep going.
“We’re grown men, but we’re playing a kid’s sport,” Glenn said. “At one point in time, we were doing this for free. I still have that kind of passion. That’s why I continue to play.”
As fun as this week has been for Glenn, he won’t remember it fondly if there isn’t a win on Sunday. That’s why he’s not going to let this opportunity go to waste.