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Saturday, October 15, 2011
Football journey: Stevan Ridley

By Mike Reiss


AP Photo/Elise AmendolaPatriots rookie running back Stevan Ridley has made an instant impression in Foxborough.



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Rookie running back Stevan Ridley is on the rise.

The third-round draft choice has totaled 161 yards on 25 carries (6.4 avg.) as a second option behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and filled in as a kickoff returner last week in place of the injured Julian Edelman.

In all, Ridley has played 45 snaps this season, and for the most part, he’s made the most of them. His 33-yard touchdown run against the Raiders was one of the team’s best offensive plays of the year.

Speaking with the 22-year-old Ridley, one thing stands out – he is setting the bar extremely high for his career. That shined through when Ridley shared his “football journey” with ESPNBoston.com this week:

When he first started playing football: “I started in the third grade, Pee Wee football.”

Why he started playing: “I was actually playing soccer and basketball. Football was a new sport and I was finally old enough to get out there and play. Everyone in my family played football. I had a lot of quarterbacks in my family, from my dad to my brother, all the way down to my uncle, and I was the biggest one out of all of them. I liked to run the football and having the ball in my hands, so I naturally started at running back. Then I got too overweight in Pee Wee football and they had to put me at tight end. We ran some end-arounds.”

Attending Trinity Episcopal High School in Natchez, Mississippi: “It’s a small school, Kindergarten through 12th grade, and winning the state championship after my brother was a top memory. He won one, and I followed behind him and got the second. That’s where my career started. I go back whenever I can.”

Enrolling at Louisiana State: “It’s about an hour and 15 minutes away from home, and I had a single-parent mother who I knew was willing to come to every game. She found a way to do things, and she worked hard to put two kids through private school [Trinity Episcopal High School]. It was either there or Ole Miss, and LSU was closer to home, so that’s where I naturally went. I felt they were a better program and also they were a running team. Coach [Les] Miles came in and talked to my mom and she liked the way he did things. We jumped on the plane and went to LSU.”

Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesStevan Ridley celebrates a touchdown at LSU.



Top memories at Louisiana State: “It would have to be beating ‘Bama last year at home. That was a big game for us. Also, coming in as a freshman and watching Jacob Hester while learning the right way to do things on a national championship team. I saw what it took and I knew how hungry you had to be, and the kind of leadership you had to have to be successful.”

Role models in his life and career: “My mom, for sure. She’s a very strong Christian lady and I think that has a lot to do with my success. I feel a lot of people in this world are lost when it comes to Christianity and things they believe in. Everyone has their own preferences, but one person who has stood by me my whole career and told me the right way to do things, and it’s been by the bible, has been my mom. I’ve had a lot of success just following what she’s told to me. That’s by far my role model and lead example.”

Favorite teams and players growing up: “I guess I would have to say the Saints, because I was from down South. I didn’t really have a favorite player, but I watched Emmitt Smith when I was young and that’s why I wore 22 in high school. As I got a little bit older and watched a little more football, I actually Shonn Greene a lot and liked his style of running. I got to meet him last week.”

Being drafted by the Patriots in the third round: “Couldn’t be any better. It’s a dream come true. This is a program that has high expectations and Coach Belichick holds everyone at a high responsibility. We have to come in and be responsible and do the things they ask us to do. With me, that’s all I can do, just come in, fall into my role, and do my job.”

Experiencing life in the NFL: “It’s a 7-to-5 job. It’s not 9-to-5. You have to really love it and can’t get caught up in all the distractions. You have to be a man.”

What he loves about football: “The physical contact. What other sport can you do that?”

His approach on the field: “I’m a humble person. I know this game can be taken from you at any time. So I try not to get caught up in the highs and lows. You have to stay at a level head because each week it changes. Injuries come. Careers end. Anything can happen. So every day, you have to play like it’s your last and run with it. I think a lot of people lose sight of that. It’s a job, and they pay us well, but it’s a lot of hard work. Every day, you have to go out there and bring it because there’s a guy right behind you waiting to take your spot.”

Where the football journey heads from here: “Trying to go down as one of the best. There are plenty of leaders around – Tom [Brady], Kevin Faulk, big Vince [Wilfork] across the line. There are people here who are going to go down as some of the best players, so for me, it’s just trying to live up to those expectations and go down as one of the best running backs to ever play the game.”