Ridley is representing Natchez well

Published 12:17am Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stevan Ridley seems to have a knack for firsts when it comes to his football career.

In his first season at LSU in 2007, the Tigers went to the national championship game and won. Now, in his first season in the NFL as a member of the New England Patriots, Ridley’s team will square off against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI tonight.

No stranger to adversity — or learning to overcome it — Ridley had a case of fumble-itis against the Bills in the final game of the regular season and against the Broncos in the second round of the playoffs.

Ridley was placed on the inactive roster against the Ravens two weeks ago, presumably because of the fumbles. Ridley himself said he understands that he has to hold onto the football, and that it was something he would have to take in stride.

But Ridley has been overcoming challenges his entire career, so expect him to make the most of things from here on out.

Ridley has had his fair share of doubters since his college football career started, but he’s never let it faze him. First, people said he wasn’t good enough to play running back in the SEC. But in 2010, Ridley rushed for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns while earning first-team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches.

Then Ridley declared for the NFL draft after that season, and fans questioned whether it was the right decision, and whether or not he could make it in the NFL.

Ridley’s had a respectable rookie season in New England, totaling 441 yards to date on 87 carries. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry, the most of any starter with more than five carries. His 441 yards are second only to Ben-Jarvis Green Ellis, who has 667.

If Ridley can stay healthy — running back is a punishing position to play — his future with the Patriots looks bright. And given that New England is a perennial Super Bowl contender, the good Lord couldn’t have picked a better team with which to bless Ridley.

As much as Ridley is enjoying his career as a professional football player, he said he’s also trying to get Natchez “on the map,” and promote his hometown as much as he can.

While Natchez has had a good number of pro football players throughout the years, Ridley is the only current player who grew up in Natchez.

The Vikings’ Cedric Griffin was born in Natchez but played high school ball in Texas.

Ridley’s presence in the league, especially on a team with the prestige of New England, can help to bring positive attention to our city.

Here, Ridley is a hometown hero, and he said there’s no shortage of friendliness from everyone who greets him whenever Ridley comes home to visit. Whether they always believed in him or had honest doubts, I doubt there’s anyone doing anything other than pulling like crazy for Ridley to succeed now.

With Ridley saying he expects to play, Natchez looks to be well-represented in the nation’s biggest game of the year. We’ll see if his first season for the Patriots mirrors his first season for LSU — and ends with a championship ring.