Ricky Ray was a fan favorite in Edmonton and many wished he would’ve spent his entire CFL career with the green and gold. After a successful 16 year career with both the Eskimos and the Toronto Argonauts, Ray was named to the CFL Hall of Fame on June 21, 2022 in his first year of eligibility.
Ray, who won two Grey Cups with Edmonton and two with Toronto, goes into the Hall of Fame as one of the best quarterbacks in CFL history.
After a successful college career at Sacramento State in the late 1990’s, Ray’s football career seemed stuck in neutral. In 2001 Ray was working as a manager for Frito-Lay in his home state of California when he received a call to try out for the San Francisco 49ers. He didn’t make the 49ers, but did suit up for the Fresno Frenzy, an arena-league team in 2002, earning $200 a game.In an unexpected twist of fate, Ray received a training-camp invite to Edmonton from a CFL connection he had made down in Fresno.
Ray Arrives in Edmonton in 2002
In the spring of 2002, Ray made the Eskimos out of training camp as the Eskimos’ third-string quarterback behind starter Jason Maas and backup Bart Hendricks.
Late in the fourth quarter of a Week Four game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Maas was knocked out of the game, and Ray made his CFL debut. In Ray’s first start against the Lions, he threw for four touchdowns and a quarterback controversy was born in Edmonton. Ray would go on to throw for 2,991 yards with 24 touchdowns and earned a quarterback rating of 101.3, the highest in the league. Working in tandem with Jason Maas, the duo would go on to win two Grey Cups with Edmonton in 2003 and 2005.
Ray missed the 2004 season with the Eskimos as he made the New York Jets as a third string quarterback behind Chad Pennington and Quincy Carter. As time went on, Ray became the clear starter in Edmonton and enjoyed 9 successful seasons in the Alberta Capital. He rose to the heights of being one of the best QB’s in Edmonton history including surpassing CFL and NFL hall-of-famer Warren Moon’s all-time record for career passing yards with Edmonton.
The Heartbreaking Trade
Edmonton sports fans have experienced their fair share of heartbreak in terms of losing all-time great players. The NHL Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Grant Fuhr, meanwhile the Eskimos saw Warren Moon move on to the NFL. On Dec. 11, 2011, the city and its fans experienced more heartbreak as new general manager Eric Tillman traded Ray to Toronto for a first-round pick, quarterback Steven Jyles and kicker Grant Shaw.
Thousands of fans couldn’t forgive Tillman for trading fan favourite Ricky Ray. Many thought he’d be an Eskimo forever. Needless to say, Ray went on to win two more Grey Cups with Toronto and this further broke the hearts of Edmonton fans as they all thought, “What If.”
A Well Earned Induction into the CFL Hall of Fame
Many Edmonton Fans consider Ray one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play for the green and gold. A true gentleman, Ray was the CFL equivalent of Kurt Warner, as both players literally came out of nowhere to win championships in their respective leagues. Ray inspired CFL fans with his accuracy and ability to throw perfect spirals to great receivers such as Jason Tucker.
Even though he won two Grey Cups with Toronto and two with Edmonton, many consider Ray one of the greatest quarterbacks the Eskimos ever had. Who knows what could’ve been had Tillman not traded Ray to the Argos. Congratulations on your induction Ricky, you’re truly one of the greatest to wear an Edmonton uniform.