Undersized, big opportunity

Posted Feb 23, 2010

Ricky Foley, the reigning CFL sack king, has signed with the Seahawks and is hoping to follow the same productive path that led Cam Wake to the NFL

Cam Wake joining the Miami Dolphins last year could be the best thing that ever happened to Ricky Foley’s football career.

Foley, whose signing with the Seahawks was announced on Tuesday, had been a situational pass-rusher and productive special teams player in his first three seasons with the B.C. Lions of the CFL – in part because Wake had compiled 39 sacks for the Lions in 2007-08 and was named the league’s defensive player of the year both seasons.

Last season, with Wake in Miami and registering 5½ sacks, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Foley led the CFL with 12 sacks and was voted the league’s most outstanding Canadian. Prior to that, the Lions’ former first-round draft choice had four sacks each in 2007 and 2008. He also had more special teams tackles each season (21 in ’07 and 15 in ’08) than tackles on defense (12 and seven).

Like Wake (6-3, 260), Foley is an undersized defender. But he could factor into the hybrid “elephant” pass-rush role that first-year coach Pete Carroll has talked about possibly featuring in the Seahawks’ defense. The player Carroll mentioned when discussing that position was Darryl Tapp (6-1, 270). The Seahawks also have Nick Reed (6-1, 247), who flashed his potential as a pass-rusher and special teams player during rookie season. Foley is another candidate.

“That’s precisely the issue I went after the first moment I got here, to see where do our guys fit?” said Carroll, who was hired last month. “Where does Tapp fit? Where do our guys fit into the kinds of things that they do that we can incorporate?

“That’s why the onus comes back to the coaches, to be flexible enough and open enough to utilize – first uncover, and then utilize – the talent that the guys have.”

Foley, 27, is now one of those guys.

The club also announced the signing of former USC punter Tom Malone, who shares the Trojans’ record for punting average (44.1 yards). Malone signed with the San Francisco 49ers as a rookie free agent in 2006 and has had stints on the New England Patriots’ practice squad the past four seasons.

Foley, meanwhile, grew up on a farm in Courtice, Ontario – about 38 miles east of Toronto – and played at York University in Canada’s largest city.

“I just value that so much now,” Foley told the Vancouver Sun of his early years. “It’s in me. I need that. I just have to go to the barn in the morning and be with the animals. I miss them.”

Foley also had offers from the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles – as well as interest from the New York Jets, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers – before deciding to sign with the Seahawks.

He becomes the third Canadian and former CFL player on the roster, joining incumbent punter Jon Ryan and just-signed snapper Pat McDonald.

Can Foley stick in the NFL? For role models, he has not only Wake but also former B.C. Lion Brendon Ayanbadejo – a three-time special teams Pro Bowl player for the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens.