Eskimos legend Ricky Ray has his day with name etched on Commonwealth Stadium
Ricky Ray has come and gone from Commonwealth Stadium, but his name will always be around it.
Literally now, thanks to his official induction onto the Edmonton Eskimos Wall of Honour during the halftime ceremony of Friday’s game against the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“It’s obviously pretty special,” Ray said. “When I got here in 2002, that’s what you notice coming out in the stadium, is the names up on the wall. Now, to be here going up myself, it’s pretty cool to kind of come full circle.
“Just to be a part of this organization and have a little bit of a positive impact here has been really special for me.”
Friday happened to mark the first time an Eskimos quarterback wearing the No. 15 started a game since Ray’s trade following the 2011 season, as Logan Kilgore filled in for injured starter Trevor Harris.
“I know, it’s weird how it worked out,” Ray said, gesturing to the gold-painted No. 15 marking the 15 yard-lines specially for the night. “I’m sure he thinks the No. 15s on the field are for him, but I’ll have to remind him that they’re for me and hopefully that doesn’t affect his game tonight.”
Tongue planted firmly in cheek, of course.
But it’s no joke both Kilgore and Harris had been teammates with Ray on the Toronto Argonauts, and the significance of having that number on his back wasn’t lost on Kilgore.
“He said they gave him 15 and was I OK with that?” Ray recalled. “I think I made a little joke that they’ll give that number out to anybody now. But it’s great to see on him and I know him pretty well. Having Trevor here as well, I got to play with him in Toronto.
“So I’m definitely proud to see those guys out there and Logan gets to carry on No. 15 for me.”
A quick tour through the Eskimos locker-room nowadays only holds a few familiar faces, such as 13-year veteran fullback Calvin McCarty, or former Argos receiver Natey Adjei, who remembers catching his first professional pass from Ray in Toronto.
“Hall-of-Famer, he’s just one of the greatest players I’ve ever played with,” said Adjei. “My first catch. My first start was Labour Day 2014 in Hamilton, the first time they opened Tim Horton’s Field and Ricky Ray threw me my first catch.
“And in typical Ricky Ray fashion, I was back side, probably the fifth read, and he goes through his progression: One, two, three, four, five and hits me. I will just always remember that play, for sure, and always remember that was the most catchable ball I ever caught in my life.”
Of course, Ray doesn’t remember it quite the same. Or at all, without having been reminded.
“Yeah, that’s when I realized I was getting towards the end of my career, when I had guys like that say those things,” said Ray. “I played with Brock Ralph (in Edmonton), and then my last couple years in Toronto, Jimmy, his younger brother came and he used to tell me when he was in first grade, he’d come watch me play.
“It makes you feel like you’ve been around for a while, but that’s what it’s all about. I grew up as a kid idolizing guys playing in the NFL and hopefully I kind of was that for some of the kids growing up.”
It’s not just kids. There are former players who came up against him and are now head coaches in the CFL who have plenty of memories of Ray.
“Just chasing one of his corner balls as a DB, that was probably one of my least favourite moments,” said Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinhauer. “I have always admired his work from afar. I had a chance to coach him in 2012 in Toronto and just watch him prepare. At that point in his career, it looked like he was a rookie, really, preparing.
“He would be in the lunchroom at the University of Toronto-Erindale there in Mississauga with us coaches walking out and he’d still be in there studying. So all those corner balls that he threw, and then 2012 being a champion were all special moments with Ricky Ray.”
On Friday, Harris became the eighth out of nine starting quarterbacks to open the 2019 season who to hit the injured list.
“I went through that quite a bit, especially late in my career,” Ray said. “It’s just a tough part of the game and to see guys going down, even in the NFL there’s been some big-name guys going down last week.
“It’s unfortunate, but you’ve got to try to overcome some of that stuff.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge