Dick Harmon: Determined Skyler Ridley has become a key part of BYU's talented receiving corps

Published: Saturday, Aug. 17 2013 6:40 p.m. MDT

Skyler Ridley makes a catch as the BYU football team practices and scrimmages on Aug. 10 at Lavell Edwards Stadium.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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PROVO — Skyler Ridley’s grandma Ethel Poulton is in the intensive care unit of a Murrieta, Calif., hospital fighting for her life after suffering a stroke this past week. Poulton's family is playing the waiting game, praying for improvement for the 88-year-old matriarch during an August nobody in her family anticipated.

Before Grandma Ethel’s setback, she did get word that Skyler, whose sports career she has faithfully followed all his life, was given a BYU football scholarship and that head coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters that NFL scouts had asked about her grandson.

From the stands, starting in Pop Warner and continuing through high school, Ethel used to get mad when opposing players would pile on Skyler at the end of a play. She was so relieved when he got back up.

He's always gotten back up, something that's surely made Ethel enormously proud. In one of BYU’s more talented receiving corps in a very long time, Skyler has become a key element.

His work ethic, ability to get open, and skill to catch the ball make him a throwback. Ridley represents the stereotypical BYU receiver, the athletes Ty Detmer threw to for more than 15,000 yards and 121 touchdowns — guys like Eric Drage, Bryce Doman, Chuck Cutler, Andy Boyce and Jeff Frandsen.

Athlon Sports ranked BYU’s 2013 receiving corps No. 12 nationally. Ridley is not the Herculean Cody Hoffman, the greyhound Ross Apo or the 6-foot-6, mitts-for-hands Marcus Mathews. What he is, however, is a daylight artist who is tough to cover and does not drop balls.

It is fitting that still means something at BYU.

“I think we forget how dependable and good those other guys have been,” said Ty Detmer.

“He’s a technician,” says receivers coach Guy Holliday. “He is really skilled technically. He’s a for-hire guy, very similar to guys BYU has had in the past, and he’s tough. He has the skills that help you win football games. “

"He's quick, fast and tough — and he just goes one speed," Mendenhall said.

Senior Hoffman agrees.

“He’s really a fundamental guy. He has a great work ethic and he makes plays when we need it,” said Hoffman. “Like you’ve seen, when we need a deep ball he can make it; when we need somebody to go across the middle on third down and we need something to happen we can count on him to make a play. He’s really smooth. He works hard; he’s a smart guy; he can read the defense, which really helps when you aren’t the fastest guy.”

Following family footsteps

Kevin Ridley wanted all his kids to grow up with balls in their hands — footballs, baseballs, basketballs or soccer balls, it didn’t matter. As a football and baseball player who became a college baseball player, he enjoyed the challenge and wanted to inspire that love for sports in his kids. His oldest, Ryan, gobbled it up, made all the teams and was a quarterback at Murrieta Valley. His other sons followed, including Skyler, who was seven years younger and looked up to his brother, loved his competitive spirit, drive and skills.

Hatched out of the thousands of hours of the pass-catch game with Kevin and then Ryan, Skyler developed a love for running routes and catching the ball. In time he developed an eye for the ball, the ability to adjust, change direction, speed up, get open and grow the fast-twitch muscle and steady hands to be a clutch possession receiver.

Always quick on his feet, Skyler was chosen to play shortstop and center field in baseball, then receiver and safety in football. As a defender, coaches discovered his innate ability to understand routes, QB reads, defenses and even toyed with making him a quarterback. As a safety, he could cover ground and wasn’t afraid to deliver hits. As a receiver, he simply got open and made catches.

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