The right mindset: Ridley making most of what he’s been given

Published 12:01am Thursday, November 22, 2012

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The results show up in the box score almost weekly, but Stevan Ridley is more worried about maintaining the right mindset.

Taking advantage of what’s been entrusted to him is that mindset, and so far this season, the New England Patriots running back has done just that.

At 842 yards and seven touchdowns to date, the former Trinity Episcopal and LSU standout isn’t exactly having a sophomore slump in his second year in the NFL. Ridley leads the Patriots in rushing by a wide margin — Brandon Bolden is the team’s second-leading rusher with 234 yards. He’s rushed 185 times this season, which is 40 more rushing attempts than the rest of the team combined.

“The opportunities have opened up for me, and I’m just trying to go out and make the most of the opportunities given,” Ridley said. “In my second year, you can’t ask for anything more. I’m grateful to have the success I’m having on the field.”

New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley takes a handoff from quarterback Tom Brady during a game against the Oakland Raiders Oct. 2, 2011 in his rookie year. Ridley, a former Trinity Episcopal and LSU running back, is getting more opportunities than he did last season, as he currently leads New England in rushing with 842 yards and seven touchdowns on 185 carries. (Submitted photo)

Ridley and the Patriots (7-3) are set to take on the New York Jets (4-6) at 7:20 tonight on NBC.

Hard work and dedication are the two key factors to getting more playing time this season, Ridley said.

“Coming into a program as a rookie, it’s hard to play anywhere as a first-year player,” Ridley said. “I knew the team would be leaning on me heavily this year, and I’ve just been cashing in every time they call my number.”

Players sometimes refer to the game “slowing down” after they adjust to a new level of play, but Ridley said he didn’t get enough opportunities last year to do a good comparison.

“I would go in a few plays, and then they’d pull me out, so it’s hard to say,” Ridley said. “I have more of a role in the offense this year, so it does become more familiar with more reps.”

Playing in the NFL has a number of perks, and one of those came when the Patriots played the St. Louis Rams Oct. 28 in Wembley Stadium in London.

“London was an awesome experience,” Ridley said. “I’ve only been out of the country twice, once to Mexico and once to Aruba, and I never thought I’d get to go to London.”

Ridley said the atmosphere in Wembley Stadium was electric, and he was surprised to see just how many NFL fans there are in England.

“You expect to see nothing but Pats and Rams jerseys, but everyone was wearing their (favorite) NFL team’s jerseys,” Ridley said. “Being over there was an experience I’ll never forget. The atmosphere, the stadium, the setup… it was really cool to be there.”

The plane ride home was also eventful, as the team had to rush back to Massachusetts ahead of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall on the East Coast.

“We flew out at 5 that morning to make it here before the hurricane came in,” Ridley said. “I think they opened up the airport just for us to land. I turned on the TV and saw how bad it was in New York, and it’s truly a blessing for us (in Massachusetts) not to get hit majorly.”

Sandy only brought a little rain and snow to Ridley’s neck of the woods, he said, and there’s no comparison between it and when Hurricane Katrina came through Natchez when he was still in high school.

“It wasn’t even close,” Ridley said. “I thought it would be a bad storm (for us), but we didn’t get hit hard here.”

Ridley said the success he’s had has kept him humble.

“I just get on my knees every day and thank the Lord,” Ridley said. “This is an awesome feeling. I’ve been dreaming it for so long. It goes all the way back to high school and Coach (David) King. We always wanted to be the best, and that same attitude carried over into LSU, and it’s kind of the same in New England.

“Every time I go out there, I think about how I want to go down as one of the best running backs to ever play the game. It’s a gift that God has given me, and I’m grateful to Him.”

He’s also grateful for the fact that, whether it was high school, college or the NFL, Ridley has always been able to play for a winning team, he said.

“We’re all getting paid ridiculous amounts, but you talk to other guys on other teams around the league, and it’s like the pay is overshadowed when you’re getting beat every week,” Ridley said.

“They say their teammates’ hearts are not in it when you don’t have a chance to beat teams on the field. Our coaches put us in the best position to win, and that’s not the case everywhere else.”

He may be many miles away from home, but Ridley said he hasn’t forgotten about his fanbase in Natchez, and he’s grateful for their believing in him.

“I try to represent Natchez, Miss., the best I can,” Ridley said.