Maas-Ray friendship continues on Argonauts
Former Edmonton Eskimos quarterbacks thriving in Toronto
“Ricky has not changed one bit since the day I met him,” marvels Jason Maas. “We still talk about the same things we did when we first met. It’s small talk. It’s just being a guy.
“We talk about life, talk about the world, talk about . . . everything. Never a dull moment. He’s a funny guy. Sarcastic. Not a lot of people see that side of him.
“I don’t think there’s been an adult moment between us in all that time. And the other thing: In the 10 years I’ve known him I’ve never been mad at him. Isn’t that amazing? Think about it a minute. You can’t even say that about people in your own family.
“Never once has he made me angry. Never once have I raised my voice to him because I was p---ed off at him. Or wanted to curse him.
“That’s why he’s so special to me. That’s why we’re such good friends.”
They’re also back on a working relationship — Ray as the saviour signal caller in double blue, Maas as his quarterbacking coach. For years in Edmonton, remember, Maas had the Angelo Arguelo role to Jack Nicklaus. Caddy. After Ray first arrived in 2002 to unseat Maas as the Eskimos’ starting pitcher, he then re-took the job after a failed NFL bid, even though Maas had thrown for a whopping 5,274 yards the previous season.
To not have a friendship torn apart in such a competitive environment, not allow ego or jealousy or frustration to drive in a wedge, speaks volumes for its strength and durability.
“He’s a great guy,” says Maas.”He’s not brash. He’s not cocky. He’s always respectful. He’s a hard worker. We had a team that went on a run 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and he understood the responsibility of his position on that team. That’s all I cared about.
“I wanted to win, regardless who was playing the position. I’m a team guy. And I think that’s what helped us through it. In the off-season, I remember making a call to him that first off-season and I said ‘I want to win a Grey Cup, no matter if I’m playing or not. And I’ll support you, no matter what.’ Ever since then, our relationship’s been solid. What it is today stems from those early moments in our careers together in 2002.”
Not that Maas allows his fondness for Ray or the bond they’ve built up to skewer his coaching judgment any. If anything, it allows him to be more candid.
“I talk to him just like I talk to all the other quarterbacks. Honestly, there’s no sugar-coating with me and I think that’s what he appreciates. About our whole relationship. I’m brutally honest with him. I also know how to talk to him. Kinda the little things to say to him.
“But at the same time he knows what he’s gonna get from me. I won’t ever shy away from telling him what I think.”
This marks their first year of coach-player association. And so Jason Maas has seen Ricky Ray from an entirely different perspective. Ray’s preparation, he says, has not ebbed one iota. His dedication to his craft remains stratospherically high. What has surprised, with a fresh viewpoint of an old friend, is the depth of the man’s skill level.
“You coach him in the classroom and I don’t know if there’s been five times this year we’ve introduced something and he’s come out and screwed it up on he field. With a new offence, new terminology, new players, to say that about someone is remarkable.
“This year’s been special. From what happened last year with the trade, to the Edmonton games, to coming back from the knee injury. This year, I appreciate him more than ever. When you compete against someone professionally, I always felt I had to be as good as him; if I went in a game I had to the things he could do.
“Now, as a coach. watching him, I’m like ‘Man, he’s GOOD. I don’t ever understand how I could possibly have ever competed with him ...’ ”
On Sunday, Ricky Ray, in his first year as an Argo, goes for the Grey Cup. And Jason Maas, his longtime trusted sidekick and friend, will be standing beside him, in a different guise, exhorting him on.
“Believe me, this would mean the world to him.
“I don’t know if he’ll say that. But I know.
“And I know his first three years we went to three Grey Cups, and after the third one we won and then I left and it was struggle for him for a few years. And I was like ‘Man, when you go to another Grey Cup, it’s gonna be way more special for you ’cause you had to work for it.’
“We had to work for it those other years, too. It just didn’t seem like it the time. Now it’s been six or seven years since he’s been to one, so I know it means a lot.”
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