by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
New England took LSU running back Stevan Ridley in the third round, 73rd overall. The 225-pound back looks to complement the Patriots’ versatile stable of ball carriers.
Ridley had a breakout 2010, gaining over 1,100 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. His success compelled him to declare for the NFL draft after his junior year.
In his interview with PD, Ridley discussed his decision to declare early, his consistent impressions of the Patriots, and a certain position he will not be playing at Gillette this fall.
Tell me about your decision to leave early. It certainly seemed to pay off, and I wonder what went into that decision?
Oh, you know, I really had to weigh it out, man. I looked at it, how much it would benefit me to come back and play another year at LSU. The thing is, I’m a redshirt junior, so I played four years at LSU. If I was to come back next year and really try to up my stock, you know, and get my value that much higher, I’d have to have a 1,400 or 1,500 yard season. Everyone knows that LSU has been known for rotating backs since way back. They always rotate running backs, there are always three or four backs in the backfield. My chances of getting the carries I need to get for a 1,400 or 1,500 yard season to make me a for-sure first-rounder – the chances of that are kind of slim… And also, what happened to (former LSU running back) Charles Scott the last year, going out and getting hurt, then going from a second- or third-rounder to a free agent.
So, there’s always a risk coming back for your senior year. It was just a gamble that I didn’t want to take. You know, my stock was high enough. I had a draft projection, and I ended up going in the third round, and I was satisfied with that. It’s not about where you get in, it’s what you do once you get in the league.
Maybe something the scouts were wary about is that you really didn’t have much production (overall), but you didn’t really get much of a chance. Do you think that’s a credit to the backs ahead of you, or do you think you’re a much better back now than you were a year ago?
Oh, I think I’m a much better back than I was a few years ago, because I didn’t get the opportunities I felt I should have, you know what I mean? It was just – everybody thinks that they’re going to come in and play right away. That’s what everybody says when they come into the program: “I’m going to go in there and start; I’m going to go in there and play.” But in reality, it’s all about timing. You have to know that playbook. You have to be comfortable in that playbook and know everything that’s going on. And once you do that, you put yourself into that playbook all the way. You know everything about it.
So, it was just all about timing. The right time for me was when I was getting to know that system. I had to buy into that, and I hated waiting it out and doing that, but I think it made me a better runner because when I got my chance, I made the most of my opportunities.
I’m wondering what you’ve been able to learn about the Patriots offense and what you’re able to do there?
I really haven’t learned much because they can’t give us any playbooks or anything like that during the lockout period. I really haven’t had that much time to get into the playbook or even have a chance to look at it. I do know they’re going to need a downhill back, someone to come in there and help out with their running game. They’ve got some veterans in there. Kevin Faulk came from LSU. They’ve got a backfield full. There’s a running back in front of me, so there’s going to be a lot of backs in there battling it out for playing time this year.
What were your impressions of the Patriots before the draft, and what are your impressions now?
It’s kind of the same. You know, the Patriots are a winning program. That’s somewhere where they’re expected to be deep in the playoffs or in the Super Bowl every year. So I know if I can go up there and play and produce, I’ve got a good chance to win a Super Bowl, man. It’s just – that’s part of going to the Patriots and playing with arguably the best quarterback in the NFL right now. Coach Belichick is an awesome coach, and I’m going to a wonderful system.
I mean, going from LSU to New England, I couldn’t ask for any better fit. I think the expectations are probably equally high in both places. Because at LSU, the fans aren’t happy unless we’re winning a national championship every year, and in New England, they’re expecting Super Bowls. So, I know I have to go up there and work hard in whatever I do, in whatever role they ask me to fill in New England.
Speaking of LSU, was that your main college? Was that the big school you were looking at?
Oh, definitely. Definitely, because they were the most successful. You know, they won. I wanted to come to a winning team. I wanted to come somewhere where I had a chance to win a national championship, and I fell into a national championship my freshman year.
And what’s that like?
I mean, it just kind of installed a hunger in me. Winning a national championship as a freshman, I really didn’t play that much, but I watched guys like Jacob Hester and Matt Flynn and Quinn Johnson, people like that going in and producing and leading our team – Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson – those are the types of guys that you have to have in order to win a championship.
I think that’s what I’m going into with the Patriots. I’m falling into a system where they have a lot of veterans in key positions, and they know what it takes to win championships up in New England.
Now, in high school, you played a lot of different positions. Is that correct?
Yeah, in high school, man, I played pretty much everywhere. For me, I think that’s what really helped me out in my career to where I’m at now, because I was so versatile. In high school, I had to play quarterback, running back, receiver. I played linebacker; I played safety. I played nose guard early on. You know, playing at a small school, a lot of people said that would hurt me, but I really think it helped me. It kept my body fresh. I did not get all that wear and tear on my body in high school. Then in college, to get one full year playing in the SEC, that helped me out also, not having the beating and the wear and tear there.
I really am – I’m in a good position going into the NFL to go up there and, hopefully, just have a long career. But I know that can’t happen unless I prepare myself and really buy into that system.
So, after playing quarterback, it looks like you’re going to probably be running the Wildcat for the Patriots, right?
(Laughs.) I wouldn’t say that much. I don’t think the Patriots have a Wildcat in their playbook at all. I mean, with Tom Brady in there, I think it’s really just a blessing to be able to fall in with a quality quarterback like that. I don’t think they’re going to need me for the Wildcat.
Where were you when you found out you got drafted?
I was actually at home. We were having a cookout with the family and some of my close friends. My high school coach came, and also some of my high school teammates, my family from Jackson and Georgia. And also my family that’s in Natchez, Mississippi. I mean, everybody was there. My dad came down from Chicago. It was a good time for my family and also for me to really enjoy that moment and that turn in my career.
That’s excellent. Well, welcome to New England. I hope you get a chance to get up here soon.
I appreciate it. I appreciate it.
Email Chris Warner at [email protected]