Ridley knows sports: Trinity star discusses the pressures of being a big-time talent in a small town

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 2, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; There is little in the world of sports that doesn&8217;t come easy for Trinity&8217;s Stevan Ridley. Virtually every time he has tried a new sport, it turned out he was pretty good at it &8212; and it&8217;s been that way for as long as he can remember.

Ridley is the perfect example of how some people are just born athletes. More often than not, athleticism runs in the family.

&8220;Well my dad was a star quarterback at North Natchez, my brother currently plays wide receiver at Central Missouri,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;I&8217;m bigger size wise than both of them, but I believe I got my athleticism from my Dad&8217;s side of the family.&8221;

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As for what Ridley inherited from his mom &8212; it&8217;s different but has been equally important to his development.

&8220;My mom? She plays tennis, but I don&8217;t think she&8217;s very good at it,&8221; Ridley said jokingly. &8220;But she gave me something more important &8212;drive. She&8217;s a very driven person. Every day, no matter how late we might be running that morning, my mom makes time for a daily devotional. She put&8217;s things in perspective for me &8212; it&8217;s God, school and sports, in that order&8221;

It&8217;s evident that Ridley&8217;s relationship with his mother has done more to shape his life than any other influence. Every time he talks about her he flashes a smile and his eyes light up.

&8220;My mom and I are extremely close,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;She keeps me in line. I give her all the credit. I thank God every day for putting a special lady like my mom in my life.&8221;

Ridley&8217;s drive is what he credits for his successes in the classroom and on the field.

&8220;My teammates hate me in the weight room, because I push them harder than they want to go,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;I&8217;m not saying they don&8217;t work hard, because they do, but for me there is more at stake with potential scholarships on the line.&8221;

This past season Ridley made All-State or All-District teams in basketball, football, baseball, and track. And as the accolades have piled up, so has the list of potential suitors vying for Ridley&8217;s services, which include LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, USM, and dozen or more others.

&8220;It was crazy, I had all these coaches and people calling me. I mean my phone was blowing up,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;I had Sylvester Croom walk in to the weight room one day, Coach Orgeron came down and spoke at a school banquet.&8221;

Earlier this year Ridley gave a verbal commitment to LSU and it all had to do with one special handshake.

Earlier this summer Ridley went to the LSU football camp for high school juniors. He was sitting in the front row of an auditorium filled with over 500 other high school football players, when head coach Les Miles walked in.

&8220;He came over to me and out of all the guys there, he shakes my hand and walks me outside,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;We walked out of the auditorium, and Miles tells me there was a place for me at LSU. I was blown away.&8221;

That handshake sealed the deal, and broke the hearts of a lot of coaches. Ridley said the hardest part was calling coach Orgeron at Ole Miss and telling him he was changing plans.

All of the attention is the hardest part of Ridley&8217;s life. Being a mega-watt multi-sport talent in a city where everyone knows who you are would be a lot of pressure for anyone &045; much less a 17-year-old kid.

&8220;I just have to take that pressure and feed off of it,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;It&8217;s hard living in a small city like Natchez because there are people, who it seems are just waiting for me to fall on my face, or screw up.&8221;

No one knows for sure what the future holds for Stevan Ridley. It&8217;s sure that one day fans will be watching him play on Saturdays, but he hopes it doesn&8217;t end there.

&8220;I know you only get one chance, so you have to make the most of it,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;I don&8217;t want it to end with just playing college; I want to play in the NFL. I want to make enough money so that my mom never works again.&8221;

Those are lofty goals, but in Ridley&8217;s world, hard work and talent make even the impossible look easy.