The stat sheet and season honors don’t lie; Calvin Ridley is an elite wide receiver in this league as he caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 109 yards per game during the seven games Julio Jones missed, resulting in second-team All-Pro honors. Not that Ridley needed any reaffirming that he’s ready to step up in the absence of Jones, but he revealed exactly why he’s already been an elite wide receiver in a recent press conference.
Working with Jones every day definitely has its advantages, as Ridley opens up. “Just seeing Julio come in the stadium some games just gave me a bunch of energy,” Ridley said. “I used to literally try to outdo him when he was on the team. I felt like that kept me hungry every day, every week.”
Competing against the very best is something only a few young players have the opportunity to do every day in practice. Still, there are even fewer players who take advantage of such opportunities to learn. Ridley didn’t waste a single moment learning from Jones during their time together, and now, he has all the tools to be regularly mentioned in the upper-echelon of receivers in this league.
His physical ability and work ethic are important ingredients to his success, but Ridley has always been an elite wideout because of one simple discovery… confidence. “The one thing I definitely took from Julio is his confidence he has every week,” Ridley said in a press conference. “Being a No. 1 receiver going out to work every day, you have to believe in yourself. By my second year, I realized what he’s all about. Once I realized that, I really tried to follow that. Not like I think I’m better than everybody, but I believe in myself. I really think that made me a better player, believing in myself and what I can do.”
It’s not cocky; it’s belief in his own ability. Ridley has already taken the next step as a player, even with Julio Jones still on the team, but it’s clear he was always going to step out of his shadow. Confidence is key, and Ridley exudes it.