Patriots select Ridley No. 73

Published 12:01 am Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stevan Ridley, right, celebrates with family and friends after getting drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots. (Michael Kerekes The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Carolyn Ridley has seen her family go through the valley.

But with the Lord’s guiding hand, Carolyn said God has moved her family to the peak of a mountain and given them a platform to share His faithfulness and love.

That platform will include Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., where her son Stevan will be starting his NFL career with the New England Patriots.

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The Patriots selected Stevan in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft Friday night after trading with the Houston Texans for the No. 73 pick. For Carolyn, the news was God’s way of showing Himself true to His word.

“The struggles our family has had are no secret,” Carolyn said. “He’s taken the ashes and made something beautiful.

“He just gives the best to those who leave the decisions up to Him. His mercies are new every morning, and great is His faithfulness.”

Since Stevan already won a state championship at Trinity Episcopal and a BCS National Championship at LSU, the only thing left for him is a Super Bowl ring, he said.

“I’m really excited,” Stevan said said. “Right now, all I’m thinking is Super Bowl. They’re always in the running every year. They have Tom Brady and a lot of weapons, people who know how to win.

“I’m just going to learn from them. I’ll be playing with the best of the best.”

Although the Patriots had expressed interest in Stevan throughout the draft process, the selection of University of California running back Shane Vereen in the second round gave Stevan some doubts, he said.

“That threw me off a little,” he said. “But they told me they liked me, and now, all the hard work has paid off.”

One pick after Stevan was taken, the Patriots traded with the Vikings for the No. 74 pick and drafted Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. Ridley said he’ll fly out to Atlanta this morning and meet with Mallett before heading up to Foxborough, Mass.

“He was actually with me when I visited the Patriots,” Ridley said. “We were just sitting there talking, and now he’s going to be on the same team as me.

“Everyone wants to talk about his off-the-field issues, but he’s a great player. They’re trying to bring him up behind Tom Brady.”

Trinity football coach David King said he was doing yard work when he heard the news, and rushed over to Stevan’s house as soon as he found out.

“The Lord is good,” King said. “To know what that boy’s been through and how hard he’s worked, this couldn’t have happened to a better family.

“They said he couldn’t play college ball or SEC ball, and they’ll say he can’t play in the pros, but I think in three or four years he probably be a Pro Bowler. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”

Stevan said his success in football should show any young athlete from Natchez that they can accomplish anything they want — as long as they’re willing to work for it.

“Hard work and dedication will take you anywhere,” Stevan said. “If they say you can’t achieve something, they’re lying to you. You can.”

And true to his nature, Stevan said he’s not going to take anything for granted now that he’s in the NFL.

“It’s time to go produce. I’m not going to be satisfied until I do,” he said.

Ridley leaves for Foxborough at 6:30 this morning from Baton Rouge.