TORONTO – One of the most prolific players in Canadian football history is calling her career, as Toronto's Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray officially announced her retirement at age 39.
The news was revealed during a teleconference Wednesday at Ray's home in Sacramento, California, ending months of off-season speculation. The future of Ray's football has been in the air since he suffered an injury at the end of the season against Calgary Stampeders on June 23, 2018.
Although the ending was not ideal, Ray will be remembered for a fame resume compiled over the 16 seasons with the Eskimos of Argos and Edmonton. He retires in the top-five of all time in yards (4th), touchdowns (5th) and starts (5th), while his calling card was his accuracy, retired as the number 1 all-time with a completion percentage of career of 68.2.
"I just wanted to be a player that the team members and the fans and the organization could believe in, I could be proud that I would go there and play my best every week," said Ray. "That's what I tried to do, give my best and be a good leader, set an example. "
»By Numbers: A Look at Ray's Career
»Images: Ricky through the lens
»Biography: Ricky Ray
With a CFL record four Ashes as the starting quarterback, Ray was a winner. After leading the Eskimos to the Gray Cup in 2003 and 2005, the veteran was traded to Toronto after the 2011 season. Although the move was a shock, Ray left an immediate mark on his new city, taking Argos to a historic victory of the Gray Cup at home in its first season in 2012.
Seven years later, Ray won a fourth championship in unexpected circumstances, leading Argos over the much favored Stampeders in a blizzard in Ottawa. With the game tied, Ray projected a critical action within the three-minute alert, completing four of his six attempts to score a goal from Lirim Hajrullaju.
Ray would return the following year before suffering a neck injury in Week 2 in the opening game of Argos, which put him off the field on a stretcher. Still, even with the injury, the veteran said there was no guesswork about his decision to return in 2018, even if he skirted the end of the storybook.
"I do not have any regrets," says Ray. "I would rather have gone through what I did last year than retiring after the 2017 season and saying 'man, I wish I played another year' .
"I think if I had left a little more in the tank I would have imagined. Right now, I know I gave it all and I have nothing else to give and now I can be really happy that I'm making the right decision now. No regrets."
In addition to winning the Best Gray Cup Player in 2005, Ray retires as the second-best time in all-time championship games (1,512 yards) and played more touchdowns in the Gray Cup with nine.
After arriving in Canada in 2002 out of the state of Sacramento, Ray quickly climbed the depth table of the Eskimos, becoming a beginner and playing 24 passes for a touchdown with only nine interceptions as a rookie. In 2003, he led the Eskimos to the first Gray Cup of his career, while the following year, the New York Jets of the NFL came calling, signing Ray to become a backup during the 2004 season.
However, Ray's time in the NFL was short-lived. He returned to Canada in 2005 and won a second Gray Cup in Edmonton, playing for 5,510 yards as he attempted a career of 713 attempts this season.
|Percent Completion||68.2%||1 st|
|300 yard games||91||3rd|
|Gray Cup Championships||4||1 st|
Despite being traded after the 2011 season, Ray's legacy in the city of Edmonton can be seen on the sacred walls of Commonwealth Stadium. The Eskimos will always remember the legendary quarterback as one of their own.
In Toronto, however, Ray built his own roots. Following the path of legendary quarterbacks like Damon Allen, Doug Flutie and Matt Dunigan, Ray brought championships to Canada's largest city, capturing two Gray Cups in the space of six years.
"It was a good opportunity for me to start over, it was good for them to have a change, they got another great quarterback in Mike Reilly and win a championship," Ray reflected. "Looking back, it was good for both organizations and life in Toronto turned out to be very special to me. To win two Gray Cups, it was a big part of my career. "
Ray was at his best under Scott Milanovich, taking advantage of his best statistical season in Toronto in 2013, while completing a record 77.2% of his passes with 2,878 yards, 21 touchdowns and two interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 126.4 seasonal record
That same season, Ray set an all-time record in a single game when he completed 95 percent of his passes, going 19-for-20 for 286 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Winnipeg. However, an injury in August limited him to just 10 games, and although he returned in October to help Argos win the East, they finally led the Eastern Final to Hamilton.
Although the Argos had already made other plans for the new season, naming James Franklin as their starter for 2019, Wednesday's announcement officially closes the book in an era. Ray's retirement has been the cause of rumors throughout the off-season, but the decision had to be carefully considered.
In seven seasons with Argos Ray he played in 72 games, playing 114 touchdown passes and just 47 interceptions, playing for 20,205 yards.
Ray has expressed interest in coaching in the past, but it seems like nothing is imminent.