Follow in his footsteps: Ridley tells Morgantown students to follow their dreams
NATCHEZ — Stevan Ridley’s comfort zone is between the white lines of a football field. He says that is what he was born to do and what he does best.
But Wednesday morning, Ridley took advantage of some free time during his short offseason to step out of his comfort zone and try to inspire some children in his hometown to chase down their dreams like he did.
“For me, any time you have a chance to come back and talk to the youth, it’s an opportunity to do something good,” Ridley said. “You never know who you’ll really touch in that time. Really, I’m not a preacher or a perfect role model by any means, but I can come in here and tell them the way I did things over my career and my course, and that’s turned out to be OK.”
The New England Patriots’ running back spoke to a group of children at Morgantown Middle School Wednesday about the development of his football career and how each child in the room could reach goals like he did.
Ridley said he feels that his ability to play football has not only put himself in a position to accomplish his dream but also help children accomplish theirs.
“It allows me to come speak on my life experience,” Ridley said. “God gave me that opportunity to be a role model to other people, and I have to take advantage of that and do my job, talk and give back.”
Lines of children gathered around the former Trinity Episcopal Day School and LSU running back after he completed his speech for autographs, pictures and a chance to talk to a local hero. But 14-year-old Morgantown basketball player Melvin Cooks said he also took a lot from Ridley’s message.
“It’s inspiring what he said,” Cooks said. “You have to work hard on and off the field, and when you mess up you have to get up and always do better every time.”
Ridley used instances of the ups and downs of his football career as examples of how people have to learn from their mistakes, keep their heads up and rise from adversity.
Morgantown teacher Frederick Todd said he was happy that Ridley made it to the school to talk to the students, and it was good for them to see such a successful person from their hometown.
“He talked about hard work, dedication and starting a foundation early,” Todd said. “I think it was a positive for (the children) to see an athlete who has been truly dedicated.”
Ridley said he was excited to be back home, and there was no better place for him to try to reach out to children.
“This is where I’m from, and there are kids here that really are going to do something special,” he said. “You don’t know who it’s going to be, but if I can talk to them and get through to anybody, I might as well start in my hometown.”
Ridley talked to several children after his speech, asking them what they want to do when they reach adulthood, and he said his message applied to each child’s goal.
“Have a dream, set your mind on it and go achieve it,” Ridley said.
Ridley will be back in Natchez April 5 for the second annual Hometown Huddle event.