TORONTO — Everything seems strangely familiar to Ricky Foley these days, right down to where he eats dinner.
The six-foot-three, 258-pound defensive end is in his second tenure with the Toronto Argonauts after being acquired from the Saskatchewan Roughriders in January for linebacker Shea Emry. And with the Double Blue holding training camp at York University, the 32-year-old native of Courtice, Ont., has returned to where he first donned football pads.
“I’ve come full circle,” Foley said. “It’s nice to be home but just so weird.
“We’re eating at Stong College where 13, 14 years ago I was a young buck wet behind the ears with no idea about football or what was going on. It’s crazy to be back here.”
It’s been quite a ride since for Foley. Taken in the first round, fourth overall, at the 2006 CFL draft by the B.C. Lions, Foley has played on three championship teams (B.C. in ’06, Toronto in ’12 and Saskatchewan in ’13) and been named both the league’s and Grey Cup’s top Canadian (’09, ’12, respectively).
He’s also been to camp with three NFL clubs (Baltimore in ’06 and both Seattle and the New York Jets in 2010). Experience, Foley says, has been a valuable teacher.
“I was a crazy kid back then,” he said. “Now I’m a crazy man but only once or twice a week.
“When I was younger I’d be coming here only worried about myself, how my pass rush was doing and what I was doing but now I look at the big picture. If I rush this way what’s it going to do to the D-line inside and those guys? Just a broader scope. It’s like anything in life, with experience you see everything from a better angle and have a lot more perspective.”
The Argos hope Foley and Tristan Okpalaugo can give them bookend pass-rushers. Both posted 12 sacks last season — for Foley, that tied a career high — just three behind league-leader John Chick of Saskatchewan.
Foley and Chick helped Saskatchewan post a CFL-high 61 sacks while Toronto finished tied with B.C. for sixth with 46.
Foley had just 10 sacks during his first stint with Toronto (2010-12) as former defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones — now Edmonton’s head coach — often utilized Foley’s athleticism by dropping him into coverage.
Foley recorded 20 sacks the last two seasons in Saskatchewan, but Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said the dangerous end does more than terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
“The thing I’ve always been the most impressed with Ricky isn’t even his numbers . . . it’s he never stops playing,” Milanovich said. “He gets a lot of junk fumbles because he’s running hard.
“When your veterans work that hard it’s so easy to sell it to the younger guys. He’s just relentless. He’ll play on special teams, he’ll run 30 yards downfield to make a tackle and a strip fumble. That’s the kind of stuff you need on defence.”
Foley doesn’t see his role in Toronto changing under new defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan. Creehan served as Toronto’s linebackers coach last before assuming the co-ordinator’s job this off-season after Tim Burke resigned.
Foley said he has made an immediate connection with the often excitable Creehan.
“If I was a defensive line coach I’d be doing exactly what Casey is doing, I’d be coaching the same way,” he said. “In meetings everything he says is kind of what I’ve learned on my own and his philosophies are how I feel about the defensive line.”
Foley is entering the final year of his contract and would like to remain in Toronto. He believes the future looks bring for the Argos following their sale last month to Bell and Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, and next season’s expected move into BMO Field.
“I’d love to be back here obviously . . . but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself (because) after what happened this off-season you never know what could happen in this business,” he said. “But as far as the Toronto Argonauts are concerned, as far as the CFL brand is concerned, obviously, it’s a great thing.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press