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Saturday, November 24, 2012

RAY VS GLENN IN GREY CUP 100

TORONTO - One collects Air Jordans, the other likes to go camping in his RV.

They're both tough as nails, have been around the CFL block and have a good sense of humour, although one shows it off more than the other.

And they can play a bit.

Rival quarterbacks Kevin Glenn and Ricky Ray bring plenty to the Grey Cup table.

Ray, a 10-year veteran in his first season with Toronto, has added poise and stability to the Argonauts' offence. Many are still shaking their head that the Eskimos agreed to trade him in the off-season.

"Let's put it this way I was pleased to hear the announcement of the trade,'' Stampeders coach-GM John Hufnagel said dryly. "I saw enough of him in the green and gold.''

Glenn, a 12-year veteran, was brought to Calgary to mentor Drew Tate - and serve as an insurance policy. He has stepped in twice for the injured Tate this season and still has the keys to the Stampeder offence.

"Let's face it, this guy's a starting quarterback,'' Toronto coach Scott Milanovich said of Glenn. "It was a great move by Calgary to have him there in case something happened to Drew. And when that happened, they didn't miss a beat.

"Our guys have a ton of respect for Kevin, as do I. I've been beaten by him a number of times.''

Ray, 33, drove up his family from California to Toronto in his motorhome to start life as an Argonaut. He liked what he saw immediately at mini-camp.

"Everybody was 'Hey welcome back,' giving each other hugs whether you were on offence or defence or special teams,'' he recalled. "Lot of times when you play on teams, you kind of have the defensive guys and the offensive guys.

"And this team has been totally different. Everybody gets along regardless of what side you're on and that's what you've got to have to be able to do things like this.''

There was a learning curve in absorbing Milanovich's offence. A mid-season knee injury didn't help either. But since returning Oct. 19, he has thrown 11 TDs and just one interception in four games.

Thanks in large part to Ray, Toronto comes into the Grey Cup on a roll.

Off the field, he is shy and laid-back but unfailingly polite. On it, he is a quiet leader who gets things done.

His teammates say the six-foot-two 205-pounder from Happy Camp, Calif., is ice-cold on the field and has one big play after another in him.

Ray will hold position until the time is right, no matter the consequences, and then delivers the ball on a platter. Receiver Chad Owens, for one, marvels at how catchable a Ray throw is.

Ray has thrived in a Milanovich offence built around smart decision-making.

"We've had some steady quarterbacks who could make plays, but with Ricky Ray, you know you're going to move the football,'' said fullback Jeff Johnson. "In years past, that wasn't a given. We knew our defence and special teams would be good, but we didn't know if the offence would be firing on all cylinders. That's not the case now.''

Added centre Jeff Keeping: "You look at him in the huddle and you just know he believes in us. And we already know we believe in him because we know what he can do. It's something I haven't had and it's really been a great experience.''
Ray doesn't say much, by design.

"I'm more of an action guy, I don't have anything good to say anyways,'' he said with a laugh. "I just try to be a guy that leads by doing.

"I've always respected the guys that do rather than say. And I've seen a lot of guys that say and don't do.''

More mischievous than Ray, Glenn too has won over his new team since coming over in a January trade from Hamilton.

"Kevin's the coolest, most laid-back guy there is,'' said slotback Larry Taylor. "He's never uptight, never taking things seriously. He's the jokey-jokey type of guy and he's loved by everybody. He doesn't have any enemies or anything, he's just a friendly guy.

"When you look at him, that's what you sense and that's what you pick up, the type of vibe you get from him. He's just a friendly guy to be around.''

Milanovich sees a more dangerous Glenn, a veteran who can extend plays with his mobility and smarts.

"He gets so hot, he gets very streaky where he'll hit 14 in a row,'' the Toronto coach said.

Off the field, Glenn and his wife own two Tim Hortons franchises in the Detroit area.

"It was one of those things 'Hey I need to start letting my money make money for me,''' he explained.

Glenn credits former teammates Eddie Davis (Saskatchewan) and Milt Stegall (Winnipeg) for helping him make the move from football player to entrepreneur.

"Those guys told me a lot about off the field football stuff, life after football and that was one of the reasons I got into the Tim Hortons thing so early,'' he said.

The 33-year-old Glenn is also a devotee of running shoes, according to Taylor.

"He's actually a shoe freak. He's a shoe fanatic,'' he added. "With (Air) Jordans. Every Jordan that comes out, he knows when they're coming out, he's there to be first one to get them.''

Ray joined the Esks in 2002 and went to Grey Cups in 2002, 2003 and 2005, winning in '03 and '05.

"Early in my career I got spoiled,'' he said of the playoff runs.

Glenn had to watch the 2007 championship game from the sidelines after breaking his arm in the East Division final. His Winnipeg team was beaten 23-19 by Saskatchewan at the Rogers Centre.

Now Tate has the broken arm and the five-foot-10 203-pound Glenn finally has a chance to start a Grey Cup. The Detroit native is savouring being on the big stage in the sport he loves.

"Words can't explain how excited I am to enjoy this whole week,'' he said.

"We should all be honest here,'' he added. "We're grown men but we're playing a kid's sport - because at one point in our life we were doing this for free just because we loved to do it. And I still have that kind of passion.''

Both quarterbacks have a reputation for toughness.

After being quizzed by GM Jim Barker about possibly acquiring Ray, Milanovich studied tape of Ray in a pair of 2011 games against Calgary.

"Ricky didn't play particularly well and he was getting smashed the entire game,'' Milanovich said. "And in the fourth quarter even though he was getting blasted all game, Ricky found a way and hung in there and hit a deep pass and I think they won one of those, if not both of them. I said I think 'Ricky still has it, he's the guy that we want.'''

Ray says it's not a question of being tougher than the next guy,.

"It's just what I do. ... I know I'm going to get hit, it's the game of football,'' he said. "I just try and keep getting back up and going to the next play.''

The third of six kids, Ray credits his father for instilling that attitude.

"If I got the wind knocked out of me, he would tell me to get up,'' he said.

His father also taught him that if you put in the hard work, you are expected to succeed.

"So if I throw a touchdown pass, that's what I'm supposed to do so I'm not going to bring attention to myself or do anything like that,'' Ray said. "I'm just going to line up and try to do it again.''

Ray showed a rare glimpse of emotion when he ran in for a touchdown against Edmonton in the East Division semifinal, spiking the ball between his legs.

There's more to the Argo quarterback than meets the eye, teammates say.

"He's also got an underrated dry sense of humour,'' said Keeping. "He'll slide a few cracks in here and there and he'll have the guys in stitches.''

"He keeps his straight face all the time but he definitely does crack jokes very often,'' said receiver Jason Barnes. "He's a very funny guy, which some people might not believe.''

Glenn also tries to stay frosty during games, citing Ray as an example to follow.

"Ricky Ray's one of the best,'' he said. "You can't tell when he comes to the sideline whether or not he's thrown and interception or a touchdown. Watching him over the years too, he's that type of guy to keep that even, calm composure. He doesn't get to high, he doesn't get too low.

"I've tried to steal that from him, from watching him play.''
(© 2012 The Canadian Press, Photos courtesy Argonauts.ca and CFL.ca)

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