Ray Honoured To Go On The Wall
The other day Ricky Ray was asked to speak to the Rotary Club in Redding.
That’s the Northern California city where he’s lived dating back to his days as Frito Ray, the guy who fell off the back of a potato chip truck and into the starting quarterbacking job with the Eskimos in one of the great out-of-nowhere stories in CFL history.
Ray decided to use the occasion to work on his speech for the Eskimos Annual Dinner Tuesday.
He knows what to expect at the $375-a-plate-plus GST dinner in support of the team’s Champions In The Community programming at the Shaw Convention Centre.
“I got to experience a lot of those dinners when I was playing in Edmonton,” he said of the first nine years of his 16-year CFL career.
“I remember Gizmo Williams one year and some of those other guys, and now it’s going to be my turn. I think it’s going to be a pretty fun evening.”
It’s the unveiling of his name and number on the wall that Ray has no idea of what will be involved.
“We were always headed in the dressing room at the half, so I don’t know for sure what goes on. But to be able to share that with my family and with the fans in Edmonton who have been so great to me is going to be pretty cool.”
We know that upwards of 30,000 fans, about double that watched most of his games in Toronto are expected to be waving special Ricky Ray flags created for the occasion.
Former teammates will surround Ray at centre field along with wife Allyson and daughters Chole, 8, and Olivia, 4, to be honoured and witness the unveiling of his name and No. 15 on the Eskimos Wall of Fame.
Some of his Eskimos teammates believed to be headed here for the occasion include Randy Chevrier, Sean Fleming, Shannon Garrett, Patrick Kabongo, Mookie Mitchell, Chris Morris, Andrew Nowacki, Roger Reinson, Scott Robinson, Fred Stamps, and Rick Walters
The unveiling will be beside the legendary Norm Kwong on the west side of the stadium.
Ray’s two daughters had a bit of a taste of how their dad is revered here when Ray brought the family to town for a holiday and visit tied into the announcement and a planning session on July 25.
The two girls joined with Bryan Hall to sing the Eskimos fight song at the end of the third quarter.
“It was a pretty cool experience for them, but they’re kind of used to it, too. They’ve been around me and football games and being down on the field that they’re used to being in those situations,” he said.
All the memories of the girls of their dad as a football player, however, are as an Argo, not an Eskimo.
They have little or no idea of the Ricky Ray days when the Eskimos won their 12th and 13th Cups in three additional Grey Cup appearances.
Ray’s run came close to becoming the third “era” in Eskimos football to go with the three-in-a-row ’54-’56 run and the five-in-a-row ’78-82 run.
His girls may not have even heard of Frito Ray.
Ray arrived in 2002, and few have made a name — or a nickname — for himself as quickly as “Frito Ray.”
One day the 22-year-old was driving a potato chip truck, the next, he was driving the Eskimos down the field.
“I thought I’d never play football again. I thought I was going to be working at Frito Lay for a while,” he told the Redding Rotarians after he decided to talk about “my journey simply.”
Ray said he received $200 a game with a bonus of $50 for a win in Fresno and wasn’t quitting his day job delivering potato chips.
Worman told then Eskimos’ head coach Tom Higgins that Ray was invented to play Canadian football, and the quarterback was soon headed north, signing up for less than the $41,500 he would have made delivering potato chips.
Ray made the team as a backup and found himself starting halfway through his first season when quarterback Jason Maas was injured.
“I expected to be carrying a clipboard for a year or two. I came here believing it would happen for me, but not that soon,” said Ray, who made it a happening.
His wife and the girls will be on the field with him Friday, and the Eskimos will make sure they have a copy of the video of the event to watch when they get older.
And they can always look up their dad in the Eskimos records.
Ray, despite playing the final seven years of his career in Toronto, holds the Eskimo records for most passes thrown career (4,827), season (715) and game (56), most completions career (3,225), season (479) and game (40) as well as most yards career (40,531) and a scattering of others.
Ricky Ray didn’t get to have the full meal deal career in Edmonton, but for most anybody else it was career and a half.