Ridley returns home for fundraiser

Published 12:01 am Friday, June 29, 2012

New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley answers questions asked by former Trinity Episcopal sports commentator Howard Jones, left, during the Hometown Huddle fundraising event. Proceeds from the event will go to the Guardian Shelter and the Ballet Magnificat. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley has his eyes set toward his second season in the NFL.

But Thursday night, he sat down in front of a group of his biggest fans to take a look back at a career that has gone from the youth football fields of Natchez to the Super Bowl in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Ridley signed autographs, shook hands and answered questions for Hometown Huddle, a fundraising event organized by his mother, Carolyn Ridley.

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He said it is always good to come back home and see the amount of support he has in Natchez.

“We had a good turnout,” Ridley said. “People show me a lot of support in my hometown, and I have family and friends that have taught me life lessons here.”

Ridley said he knows his hometown prefers its NFL team to wear black and gold, but he smiles when he sees his fans in Patriots’ colors.

“I know we’re in Saints’ nation, but it’s good to see the red, white and blue,” Ridley said. “I know they are behind me 100 percent.”

The New England running back said he took some time off from his summer workouts in Baton Rouge to come to Natchez to speak at the event.

Ridley said he knows the opportunity he has in front of him this season to try to move up the Patriots’ depth chart and become the featured back.

“Everything I could have asked for is right in front of me,” he said. “It’s all about, ‘What do you do right now?’ I’m smiling and happy, but at the same time it’s a business, and you have to realize if you don’t do your job there is somebody coming to replace you.

“I’m going into this year focused with an edge I’ve never had. It’s put up or shut up at this point, and I’m ready to play and try to put this city on the map and do well for Natchez, Mississippi.”

Ridley said he is much more comfortable with what his role is going into his second season.

“I’m really trying to build on last year,” he said. “Every year you have to gain a bit and become a better player.”

Ridley sat down for an interview with former Trinity Episcopal sports commentator Howard Jones to talk about his football career after signing autographs for an hour.

Ridley talked about his career at Trinity, his recruitment by LSU, his time at LSU, his decision to go to the NFL and finally his first season with the Patriots.

Ridley said he has always played the game with a chip on his shoulder, and his drive is what led him to accomplish what he has so far.

“I want to get to that No. 1 spot,” he said. “And to this day that is still what I’m doing with the Patriots. I’m fighting for that No. 1 spot.”

Through all of his accomplishments, Ridley said his mother has kept him grounded.

“What has kept me humble is my mom in the back of my mind,” he said. “I know one slip up, and it’s all going to be gone away.”

Ridley said he owes his mom a great deal, and that is why he wanted to help her raise money for the Guardian Shelter and Ballet Magnificat.

Ridley, also told the crowd what its like playing for two legends of the NFL.

“The first time I met (Tom) Brady I told him, ‘I’m Stevan Ridley,’ and he said, ‘I know who you are. Glad to have you on the team, and I look forward to working with you.’

“Tom Brady runs that organization. You have to be on Tom Brady’s page.”

Ridley said what head coach Bill Belichick shows in interviews is how he is on the field.

“If it doesn’t involve the team, winning or us at the New England Patriots, he’s not concerned,” Ridley said.

Ridley also provided a word of advice for several Trinity Episcopal football players in the audience.

“I will just tell all of y’all you can do anything if you set your mind to it,” he said. “Stay out of trouble and keep your eye on the prize. Go for it with your best effort and do all you can do and do the right things and try your hardest. Hard work always brings good results.

“If you didn’t shortcut yourself, you should be able to sleep (at night) knowing you did your best.”

Ridley honored former Trinity head coach David King with an autographed picture of Ridley’s first preseason game against Jacksonville, in which he scored three touchdowns. Ridley credited King, along with his family, for much of his football success.