Grey Cup win has Argonauts QB Ricky Ray's fingerprints all over it

Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray holds his daughter Chloe after defeating the Stampeders in the Grey...

Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray holds his daughter Chloe after defeating the Stampeders in the Grey Cup game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Nov. 25, 2012. (STAN BEHAL/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:28 AM ET

TORONTO - They didn't give the Grey Cup MVP to Ricky Ray like they did the last time he won a CFL title.

And they didn't give it to Eric Tillman, either. There's some sort of rule that you have to be in attendance to win it.

But make no mistake, Ricky Ray's name is engraved on not just the Grey Cup but on the Grey Cup game, the playoffs and most of the season.

"We're not on that stage with the Grey Cup without him," said Toronto Argos head coach Scott Milanovich.

Ray said the idea of winning the Grey Cup this year didn't cross his mind when he answered the phone that day to hear Edmonton Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed tell him that he'd been traded to Toronto.

"No," he said as he stood beside the stage at the Rogers Centre where the Grey Cup had just been presented, holding one-year-old daughter Chloe after giving his wife Allison a great big hug.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't have this in my mind. I didn't.

"I was just trying to get my head wrapped around it and figure out all the next things you have to figure out when something like that happens to you.

"At this point in my career, when you've been playing in one place so long, when you play in one place for nine years and think you're going to play your whole career there, playing for one city and for the fans of that city, and you get a call that says they don't want you anymore ..."

Ray was asked if he had any message for Tillman or Edmonton.

"No," he said and turned to answer the next question.

Asked how this one compared to the other ones, Ray said he can't compare them.

"But it sure is a good feeling to win the 100th Grey Cup," he said. "Each one is special. I can't say one is better than the other. But this one is soooooo good. It's the 100th Grey Cup.

"I didn't know what to expect at all. When you come here to a team that wanted you to be here, who believed in you ... it's been unbelievable to come to a new team. What a special feeling for all of us."

Ray, who was MVP of his previous Grey Cup game, way back in 2005 when the Eskimos won in overtime in Vancouver, moved into a tie with Anthony Calivilo with the most Grey Cups won by a quarterback in the new millennium, with three each.

Ray was on the losing side of his first Grey Cup game, also held at home, in 2002 in Edmonton. He won his first the following year in Regina. He missed the 2004 season to join the New York Jets in the NFL.

"It's been a long time," he said. "There have been a lot of ups and downs. Everybody has got their story. But this is the day you play for."

Ray opened with a first-play interception when Quincy Butler picked off an attempt to hit the CFL's most outstanding player, Chad Owens.

"That's a tough way to start," said Milanovich. "A lot of quarterbacks wouldn't have recovered from that. That's why he's Ricky Ray. The guy is a Hall of Fame quarterback."

But after that it was Calgary with the turnovers -- a fumble, an interception and a turnover on downs -- with Ray coming back with his patented patient, calm touch passing that provided a 24-6 lead at the half. It included a 62-yard TD toss to ex-Eskimo Jason Barnes, the longest pass of Ray's four-game Grey Cup career.

Ray was 18 for 30 for 231 yards, including two touchdown passes, to complete the Braley Double -- back-to-back home Grey Cup wins for B.C. Lions and Argos owner David Braley.

But there's a bigger picture here than what happened this day.

Ray played a huge part in Toronto actually pulling off the 100th Grey Cup. It was a spectacular celebration of Canadiana, the history of the event and three-down football.

Would it have happened if Ray hadn't been traded to Toronto by Tillman? Would it have happened if he hadn't quarterbacked the Argos into the Grey Cup game. Would Toronto fans have embraced the week like they did?

It'll take some time to find out if one wonderful week of turning back the clock to the way it was so many years ago here, give or take the odd hiccup of getting a horse into the lobby of the Royal York Hotel, turns out to reboot interest in the Argos going forward.

If it does it'll be Ricky Ray's legacy.

And Eric Tillman's, too.

DREAM COME TRUE

Chad Rempel, the Toronto Argo who used to catch passes from Ricky Ray and Jason Maas in the off-season in Sherwood Park, Alta., sucked in the scene around him in the Rogers Centre as his teammates celebrated with the Grey Cup.

"This is a dream come true on every level," raved the long snapper who lost two provincial high school finals and two Vanier Cup finals at the University of Saskatchewan

But he won the big one on the same team as his idol, Ray. He even had a No. 15 Eskimos jersey.

"I'm a Canadian kid. I grew up watching the CFL and idolizing the Eskimos."

Rempel said he got excited the moment he heard the Eskimos had traded Ray to the Argos.

"We knew we had a lot of the key pieces in place and that was the one position. I mean, everyone knows you need a solid quarterback to win in this league.

"Some of the core guys on the team, we kind of called each other up as soon as it happened and we were all 'What the heck?'

"But we knew we were going to be competing for a Grey Cup as soon as he signed and here we are today.

"Shortly after he came for the press conference, I ran into him in the parking lot. It was so funny because I hadn't seen him in a few years since we were running routes together in Edmonton.

"It was a big change for him moving to Toronto but he adjusted quickly.

"It's been a long road for me. I've had a lot of injuries, faced a lot of adversity but it all worked out."

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terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

 


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