Dick Harmon: Determined Skyler Ridley has become a key part of BYU's talented receiving corps
It is this attribute that got Ridley a scholarship to BYU for the 2013 season. He previously labored as a walk-on — a journeyman who kept coming back for more and more punishment with little reward.
In the spring of 2012, following season after season of giving everything he had to make BYU’s team, Ridley decided not to play anymore. He remembers after one practice two defensive coaches, Nick Howell and Kelly Poppinga, approached him and told him they were impressed with his play. The encouragement gave him a spark and he gained confidence, which refueled his desire.
“We would scrimmage and I’d make a play, then another play. It was day by day and quarterbacks began believing in me. Against Washington State I came in and helped our team win and I could see and feel how I could help our team win games,” he said.
Humbled, he remembers the road.
“I remember walking on as a freshman in 2007 and playing with guys like Austin Collie, Dennis Pitta, Max Hall and defensive guys like Kelly Poppinga, Brian Kehl. I felt young and small but also very privileged to be in a program playing Division I ball.
“Back then I felt I had a long way to go to get in that stadium and play. It’s been a long road, but it’s been something that will impact my life. Being part of that team, last year’s team and this team is a stepping stone to future things. Right now, my confidence has grown a lot but I’m reminded each day that I’m playing against Division I guys and one of the best defenses in the country. And so it’s been fun to get better with the great players we have on this team.”
The day Mendenhall called him in and gave him a scholarship, Ridley felt nothing but gratitude because he never felt entitled. Like his Eagle project, he didn’t shun the work.
“I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience here. There were some tough days being on the scout team for multiple years and it was hard to come out and be excited about coming out and practicing, but my experience here is going to impact every day as I go forward — whether it is in athletics or anything else I pursue. I’m grateful that coach Mendenhall has rewarded my effort as a team member here.”
NFL scouts have asked about Ridley?
Mendenhall told reporters after one of BYU’s early fall practices that pro scouts visiting to inspect Hoffman asked about Ridley.
That must have been music to the ears of Kevin Ridley, a man who has spent a lifetime digging a platform of sports for his sons. For a happy, go-lucky son who likes to sing in the shower and dance, such news would be a symphony.
“He reminds me of Lance Long at Mississippi State,” said Holliday, who has helped 20 players advance to the NFL during his career. Long has played for the Cardinals, Chiefs and Lions.
“Diligence and work ethic. Lance wasn’t a 4.4 (40-yard dash) guy, but he made himself a big part of it and fast because he was smart and made himself into an NFL guy and he’s still playing in the league. We’ll see what happens. You never know when you get out of camp, but there is always a need for a dependable guy who shows up, works hard, just catches footballs and is good in the run game. We will see.”
The fate of Ridley, Hoffman, Matthews, Apo, regenerated QB Taysom Hill and Anae’s new design to "go fast, go hard" is in the hands of a rebuilt offensive line.
But there have been moments this summer when Ridley and Co. have got a glimpse of what can happen.
Just days into camp, the offense exploded. And it was something to behold.
“I don’t think, in all my years on this team, our offense ever had a day like that,” said Ridley.
“If we have the guys to give our quarterbacks time to throw, we have the guys to get up and get it. We get 5 yards here and there and then make a big play with guys like Cody and Mitch going up and getting the ball. It’s exciting and that’s what the offense is designed to do.
“I think as you’ve seen, we’ve worn down our defensive backs and I expect we will do that as teams come here or we travel. Really, there is no way you can prepare for the speed at which we are running our offense in just four or five days. So, it is a huge advantage against any team we play this year.”
What has stood out as a receiver?
“The deep ball,” said Ridley. “I haven’t seen us throw the deep ball this often and this well in a long time, probably since Austin (Collie) was here.”
As BYU propels toward the opener at Virginia on Aug. 31, the Ridley story takes a back seat, as it should, to the health of Grandma Poulton, whose family is watching and praying for her.
“It was tough the other night to hear she had a stroke,” said Skyler. “I hope she gets better.”
However it goes, Ethel can be proud she produced a grandson who continues to get up and press forward. By all accounts, he's an example worth believing in today.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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