It’s Thanksgiving, and certainly Alabama fans have plenty to be thankful for as their Crimson Tide continue to make another push towards the College Football Playoff.
So, in the spirit of being thankful, SEC Country has decided to highlight one player from the SEC’s top schools for which his respective fan base should be thankful. Derrick Henry, the likely Heisman Trophy winner, seems like the obvious choice for Alabama.
But this post is dedicated to more of an unsung hero for the Crimson Tide — Calvin Ridley.
Ridley is a true freshman wide receiver out of Coconut Creek, Fla., whose role immediately changed when sophomore Robert Foster sustained a season-ending shoulder injury against Ole Miss. It was only September when the injury occurred, but ever since, Ridley has become a key cog in the Alabama offense.
Ridley has played in all 11 of Alabama’s games this season and has become the Crimson Tide’s leading receiver with exactly one-third of Alabama’s 15 touchdown receptions. Behind Ridley’s five receiving touchdowns, senior Richard Mullaney has four — but no other Alabama player has more than two. Ridley’s longest reception is 81 yards and he averages more than 60 receiving yards per contest.
He also leads the team with 61 catches for 701 yards. That is the most receptions by a freshman in school history, and he could have up to four more games to play.
The Crimson Tide will need Ridley to continue to play at such a high level as they move forward in almost assuredly the SEC Championship game and then the College Football Playoff. Alabama will face Auburn this weekend for its final game of the regular season.
And while Ridley might just be a freshman, his impact has been well beyond his years. Last month coach Nick Saban compared Ridley to school record holder Amari Cooper — and with each passing day Ridley is only proving his coach’s instincts right.
“You talk about a mature young man that — for a freshman — really prepares well, pays attention to detail, really tries to do things the right way, which is usually the biggest issue when you have young guys that play,” Saban said in October. “They don’t have the maturity to be able to hang in there and pay attention to detail and realize the importance of all that. And he does that, and he does it really well.”