Patriots RB Ridley returns to hometown to inspire youth
NATCHEZ — When New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley stepped toward the waiting group of young boys at the Miss-Lou Tri Sport Camp, priceless smiles flashed across their faces.
Trinity Episcopal alumnus Ridley has been training in Baton Rouge during the offseason, but he made a special trip back to Natchez at Adams County Christian School to speak to the campers.
“I just like to come down here and try to motivate everyone,” Ridley said. “It feels like it was just yesterday it was me (in their shoes).”
Ridley started his speech by telling the 8- to 11-year-olds that time passes by so fast, and before they know it, they’ll be playing sports in high school and maybe even college.
With that said, he emphasized that it is never too early for the boys to take their training more seriously if being a professional athlete is their main goal.
“If I can tell them what to do to be successful, then that’s my job,” he said.
As Ridley spoke to each boy, giving them motivational pointers to help them get better as athletes, he gave them all one piece of advice that could stick with them for a lifetime, even if the ball deflates.
“Chase your dreams,” he repeated to the young group. “Sports doesn’t always workout for everyone, but you have to put your best foot forward at whatever you want to do. If you’re going to be a teacher, be a great teacher.”
Ridley explained taht many obstacles will come their way, especially coming form a small town.
“Natchez gave me more motivation because I know I had a good base coming out, but people doubted me because I came from a small area,” he said. “But all we know here is hard work, so I just wanted to tell them they have just as good a chance as the kids from bigger areas. ”
Ridley stayed after the camp to talk with the children and sign jerseys, footballs and caps for them.
Matthew Petty got his jersey signed by Ridley, and he said he was happy that a professional football player came back to speak to him.
“It’s really exciting that he’s in the NFL and we get to talk to him,” Petty said.
Petty said he learned a lot in a short amount of time while listening to the inspirational words from Ridley.
“He said to always believe in yourself when people doubt you,” Petty said. “I’m going to start practicing every day for a long time just to get better.”
Ridley said he would be heading back to Boston for the Patriots training camp July 25.
Until then, he said he would continue his individual workouts, which include weights and conditioning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Ridley said he is excited to head back to Boston and play with what he, and many others, believes to be the best quarterback in the league in Tom Brady.
When it comes to the addition of Tim Tebow this season as the third string quarterback, Ridley said Tebow fitting in well with the Patriots’ family.
“He’s going to be a great player (for us), and he’s a great guy,” Ridley said. “He is finding his role and playing his part.”
As Ridley and the Patriots get ready for the fall season, they have a lot of scrutiny to surpass in order to keep their focus.
With the Aaron Hernandez chaos looming around the nation and especially the Patriots’ press conferences, Ridley said there is only one way he can personally go about the situation.
“My prayers are with the Hernandez family,” he simply stated.
The Miss-Lou Tri Sport Camp will continue through Thursday with focus on basketball while Ridley and the Patriots will pick up their season on Aug. 9 against the Philadephia Eagles.