ATLANTA — Calvin and Riley Ridley didn’t grow up playing football in a grassy backyard. Instead, they tossed and tackled outside their family’s apartment on a rough patio. The space was about 30 yards wide and just as long.
Not only did they make it work, they found a way to benefit from the situation.
“Because it was so close, we learned how to shake and make moves,” Calvin said Saturday at the College Football Playoff National Championship’s media day. “It would help us a lot, learning how to play football on that patio.”
Clearly it did. Calvin is a junior wide receiver for Alabama. Riley is a sophomore at Georgia, claiming the same position as his older brother.
They may be opponents now, about to go head to head in the CFP National Championship Game on Monday, but it never mattered where Riley chose to attend college.
“He’s happy,” Calvin said. “That’s all that matters.”
Whether Calvin knows it or not, Riley idolizes his big brother. He has always watched Calvin in hopes to learn from his game and attitude. On the field, Riley has grown to be a better route runner. Off the field, he knows to remain humble. He gained all that experience and knowledge from Calvin.
Usually, the Ridleys are in constant contact. This week is an exception – Riley won’t text his brother and Calvin refuses to be the first to reach out – because it’s considered a business trip. There’s a lot on the line.
Once the game clock runs out, all bets are off. Riley is giving his big brother an even bigger hug.
“Have the cameras ready for it,” Riley said. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen him.”
As always, Riley will root for Calvin – as an individual. Nothing will ever change the fact that the two are family. And family comes first.
Also, Riley knows how much hard work his brother has put into his career. That’s why Calvin is Riley’s role model.
“Before he came to school he told me, ‘I’m going to be the best,’” Riley said. “When my brother says something, you don’t take it for granted. Because he really means it.”
Calvin followed through on that statement. He’s definitely printing his name in the records book: tied for second on the UA career touchdown reception list with 18 and third on the NCAA active games with a reception list thanks to a 43-game streak.
This season alone, Calvin has 59 receptions for 935 yards and four touchdowns.
OK, but Calvin is just as proud of his brother.
“He’s grown a lot,” Calvin said. “He’s definitely a different guy now. He loves the game. I think he’s doing a really good job.”
Riley has brought in eight receptions for 136 yards and two more scores this season after collecting 12 catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Now, here Calvin and Riley both are, about to rehash a childhood competition on the big stage rather than a neighborhood patio.
“There’s not a national championship unless there’s a Ridley in it,” Riley said. “Now you have two of them.”