After national title Ridley knows what it takes

Published 11:06 pm Monday, January 21, 2008

NATCHEZ — The season didn’t start off like he wanted, but in the end, Stevan Ridley couldn’t have scripted his first year at LSU any better.

The former Trinity football standout saw his season begin by being redshirted, which made him ineligible to play. But his team capped things off with an SEC and National Championship.

“I didn’t think it was going to be the best situation for me going in,” Ridley said. “It was really hard at first because ever since I started playing sports as a kid, I’ve always played.”

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With four running backs already on the roster at LSU, Ridley would have played on special teams and gotten only limited carries at running back had he played his true freshman year, but he and his coaches decided it would be best to redshirt the highly touted Ridley so he could have four years of eligibility beginning next season.

“I was saying that I was going to go down there and open everybody’s eyes,” Ridley said. “I had a excellent spring and fall practices but I told my coach I would rather take a redshirt year so I could learn the offense and have four years to really play a large role.”

Ridley said the year off helped him tremendously, especially having a player like outgoing senior LSU running back Jacob Hester be a mentor and role model.

“He has really been a mentor to me,” Ridley said. “He always runs hard and although he’s not the fastest or most talented back we have, he knows the offense the best and that’s what it takes to be successful.”

That tutelage comes in even more handy for Ridley as he says the Jacob Hester role is the role the LSU coaches want him to have next year, as the bruising, hard-nosed tailback who churns out the tough yards.

“The coaches are really high on me,” Ridley says. “I know the ball is in my court. If I go down there and keep doing what I’m doing in practices and scrimmages, I’ll be in a good position.”

Ridley already has experience facing an outstanding defense. He served the role of LSU’s opponent’s running back in scout team work during the season. The week LSU played Arkansas, Ridley played the role of Darren McFadden for the LSU defense during practice. In practices for the BCS Championship Game, he played the part of Ohio State tailback Chris Wells.

Those scout team practices against the LSU first team defense helped out Ridley tremendously, he said.

“I went up against the No. 1 defense in the nation every week,” Ridley said. “It was really helpful to me. There’s much more than just getting the ball and running it. It’s a mental game and I know I can be successful.”

And the year couldn’t have finished any better for the freshman as the Tigers captured the national title in New Orleans by defeating Ohio State 38-24. Ridley made the trip with the team and worked with the scout team for the week leading up to the game.

“It was the best experience of my life,” Ridley said of the Tigers week in the Big Easy. “To come from winning a state championship in high school and roll right into winning a national championship in college is a blessing. I’m thankful God blessed me to be able to experience things that a lot of people don’t get to experience.”

Ridley also expressed thanks to his friends, family and former coaches at Trinity, who he still keeps close contact with.

“I’ve got so much support in Natchez,” Ridley said. “I talk to my coaches at Trinity everyday. Everyone here is so supportive, from my parents to all the prayers for me at church. The year has gone by so fast. It was a great experience.”

And as for next year, Ridley has big plans for himself.

“How I play this spring will determine how much playing time I get next season,” Ridley said. “Going in the competition is wide open. If I continue to work hard, I have no doubt I’ll be playing next year. I have high expectations for myself. I’m going to go in there and work hard to get a lot of playing time next season.”