Toronto Argonauts: Ricky Ray leaves storied legacy after announcing retirement

Ricky Ray #15 of the Toronto Argonauts takes to the field prior to the 105th Grey Cup Championship Game against the Calgary Stampeders at TD Place Stadium. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)
Ricky Ray #15 of the Toronto Argonauts takes to the field prior to the 105th Grey Cup Championship Game against the Calgary Stampeders at TD Place Stadium. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images) /

After months of speculation, Ricky Ray formally announced his retirement after 16 seasons with the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos.

If there is anything we have learned about Ricky Ray throughout his career, it didn’t matter how hard he got hit, he was always going to get up. That all changed during the 2018 season with the Toronto Argonauts when he was taken off the field on a stretcher.

Since that moment on June 23rd, the questions about his future were only getting louder and on Wednesday he finally put them to rest by announcing his retirement.

The writing had been on the wall for a while with Jim Popp even anointing James Franklin as the starter but the conference call gave Ray the opportunity to make the decision on his own.

"“The more I thought about it, physically I just don’t think I can perform at a standard necessary to play anymore,” Ray said during the call. “Every time I had that competitor inside of me saying, ‘Hey you can still do it, there’s a lot left to accomplish. I just had the practical voice in my head saying, ‘Physically you just can’t do it anymore.’"

Some were wondering whether there should have been a press conference for the moment and the team offered that to Ray but he didn’t want to do it that way. Instead, he will join the team for its home opener with his family and get his moment in front of the fanbase.

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The 39-year-old finished his career with 60,736 passing yards (fourth all-time), 324 touchdowns, four Grey Cup titles (most by any QB in league history, best career completion percentage (68.2 per cent) in the CFL.

When the Argos shocked the league by acquiring Ray from the Edmonton Eskimos is helped revive a struggling franchise.

In 2016, he suffered a fractured rib and partially deflated lung in the Labour Day Classic against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He somehow got up and walked off the field but missed the rest of the season with the injury.

There were doubts as to whether he could come back from consecutive injury-riddled seasons after missing most of the 2015 season recovering from shoulder surgery.

Not only was winning the 2017 Grey Cup a remarkable accomplishment for Toronto considering since they did not have a coach or general manager until February and finished in last place but for Ray, he proved a lot of people wrong coming back and showing that he had a lot left in the tank.

Any time Ray took the field, you knew what you were going to get. Opposing defences knew he was going to sit in the pocket and put the ball right where he wanted to and there was little they could do to defend it.

He might not have been the most vocal player but he earned the respect of his teammates. His willingness to stand in the pocket and take a hit just to make a play and didn’t think anything out of it. He just wanted to do what was best for the team.

Many expect Ray to get into coaching but for now, he wants to stay away from football so that he can spend time with his family. Watching games will probably reinvigorate his passion for the game and his desire to stay close to it.

"“When people ask me, ‘Do you have fun playing football?’ I’m not sure fun is the right word,” Ray told Frank Ziccarelli of the Toronto Sun.“Rewarding is more the right word because it’s not fun all the time."

It is that type of mentality that went overlooked in Toronto because they had arguably one of the best quarterbacks in CFL history and still couldn’t attract the crowds’ other sports teams in the city have with their start talent.

The team will now pass the playcalling duties to James Franklin who came in for Ray last season but never had the vote of confidence. That will change this season and Ray thinks his understudy should be able to step in.

"“He has a lot of tools to be a great quarterback in the league,’’ said Ray. “I was impressed with his deep-ball accuracy. Some of the throws he made down the field were pretty impressive.”"

Franklin isn’t the same type of QB as Ray considering he doesn’t mind holding on to the football and taking off to move the sticks. Ray commended Franklin for using his size to his advantage.

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As long as the Argos are willing to let Franklin use all the tools in his arsenal to be successful, he should be able to show off his potential. Hopefully, he took some notes when he was in meetings with Ray because he’s someone every player should model themselves after.