Argos' Ricky Ray went from offseason of doubt to starting in Grey Cup

One of the greatest quarterbacks in CFL history was questioning his future in the league to begin this season. Ricky Ray wasn't even sure he'd be the starter for the Toronto Argonauts. On Sunday, he'll be looking to capture his fourth-career Grey Cup title against the Calgary Stampeders in Ottawa.

Quarterback looking to capture his 4th championship on Sunday in Ottawa

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray and his teammates are shown celebrating their win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in CFL East Division final on Nov.19. Ray is looking for his fourth Grey Cup title on Sunday when his team faces the Calgary Stampeders. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA — One of the greatest quarterbacks in CFL history was questioning his future in the league to begin this season. Ricky Ray wasn't even sure he'd be the starter for the Toronto Argonauts. 

"I didn't know where I would be playing or what my role would be until coach Trestman gave me that call and showed me his confidence in me to come back as a starter."

The Argos had just come off a 5-13 season. They didn't have a coach or a general manager as the season neared. At the end of February, Marc Trestman and Jim Popp took over and everything changed.

Ray had only played 12 games over two seasons leading into this year because of injuries. That didn't matter to the newly appointed head coach. Trestman made it very clear early on Ray would lead the Argos into the season.

"It's been a long journey for a lot of us," Ray said. "Just the changes and trying to come together from the coaching staff, players and general manager."

From uncertain start to division leaders

In his first game of this year's campaign Ray threw for a career-high 506 yards and a 32-15 over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Argos finished first overall in the East Division and are back in the Grey Cup for the first time since winning it last, beating Calgary, in 2012.

Ricky Ray has a monster day as the Argonauts defeat the Tiger-Cats

5 years ago
Duration 2:28
Argos QB Ricky Ray threw for a career-best 506 yards as Toronto dumped Hamilton 32-15

"Obviously we've come a long way since last year," Ray said. "At the end of last year, missing the playoffs, there was a lot of uncertainty for the coaches and the players. We all didn't know what was going to happen."

Ray says the coach's belief has allowed him to have the season he's had and lead the team into the Grey Cup. Trestman speaks highly of the veteran quarterback.

"I'd be the master of the obvious with this answer but we're really fortunate to have Ricky. He's played at a high level all year."

A long journey back to the big game

Ray will try and capture his fourth Grey Cup on Sunday. He won his first championship in 2003 with Edmonton, defeating the Montreal Alouettes. He would go on to win the 2005 Grey Cup, again with Edmonton, before winning his third title with the Argos in 2012.

He'll be the first to admit it's been a long journey getting back to the big game. It's taken him having to fight for the starting role in Edmonton, having a stint in the NFL before being cut by the New York Jets and facing a number of different injuries.

"If you would have asked me in training camp if we would be here, I would have said 'we have a plan to be in this game with coach Trestman and the vision he gave us,'" Ray said.

The Argos have gone from worst to the Grey Cup game in just one year. Ray, who was nominated as the East Division Most Outstanding Player, points to the coach's team first philosophy that's led to Toronto's rapid turnaround.

"He has a quote that says, 'what you do for yourself dies with you and what you do for others lives forever.' He just shows the importance of working hard for not only yourself but the people next to you," Ray said.

Veteran leadership under centre

Trestman won back-to-back Grey Cups with Montreal in 2009 and 2010. His quarterback in both of those games was Anthony Calvillo. Trestman knows the importance of having a veteran quarterback leading a team into the Grey Cup.

"I said it many times but we go into our building each and every day we have hope, because we know Ricky Ray is there. He's already in and preparing and leads the way."

Now Ray is preparing to lead the way one more time this season for the Argos.

"We've had to start from ground zero and build it back up and here we are," he said.

The Toronto Argonauts face the Calgary Stampeders in the 105th Grey Cup Sunday night in Ottawa.

Argonauts, Stampeders both have something to prove in Grey Cup

5 years ago
Duration 0:49
Kickers, rookies, quarterbacks and more—here's how the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders match up ahead of the 105th Grey Cup.


Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.


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