It certainly appears that Georgia football is this uncontainable virus turning everyone in its path deep shades of red and black. Such spread is just a little frightening. Where have all the pastels gone?
Still, Bulldogs receiver Riley Ridley figures his own brother – Calvin Ridley, the Falcons first-round pick out of Alabama – has a kind of immunity. It just so happens his NFL team borrowed the Bulldogs color scheme. Otherwise, Riley figures he couldn’t get his own brother to wear so much as a tiny “G” stickpin.
“Well,” Riley said, “I feel he’s really strong about Alabama. He loves Alabama. That’s his college team. This is mine. He’s a dirty bird now. And I’m a Dawg.” The delineations of loyalty are clear in this one family.
In January, the Ridleys shared the Mercedes-Benz Stadium field during ‘Bama’s overtime national championship victory over Georgia. Isn’t that the way it always goes: Big brother wins out again. For what it’s worth, Riley held up well in the sibling statistical challenge, saving his best career performance (six catches, 82 yards) for the biggest game. It was Calvin’s 7-yard TD catch, however, that tied the game and sent it to overtime.
By happy happenstance the two are now occupying the same state, practicing less than 50 miles apart. Both share a position. Both are important to the grand scheme. Both play for teams filled to almost bursting with the helium of high expectations. Yeah, there’s a lot for them to share.
“It’s wonderful,” Riley said when asked about how this all worked out so conveniently for the brothers. “I get to call him all the time. He gets to call me and give me advice. Right now, I’m just taking it all in. I’m just blessed.”
The family reunion has been put on hold for a few weeks, however. “I get to see him. But right now, we’re in camp and trying to keep the main thing the main thing, keep focused on practice,” Riley said. “I talk to my brother whenever I can, but right now I’m trying to focus on what I got to do for Georgia.”
Riley was speaking Friday before the first day of Bulldogs fall camp, one of the designated voices for this version of opening day.
None of those selected to speak included a quarterback, who we are told is a rather important leadership position. In Georgia’s case, there is an embarrassment of riches at that spot, between incumbent sophomore Jake Fromm and hotshot freshman Justin Fields. And quarterbacks are always the hottest topic.
The Bulldogs receiver saved some of his best first-day-of-practice footwork for that subject. Yes, he said, both Fromm and Fields are smart and capable. Fields uses his legs better. Fromm always gets his guys in the right play, the right place at the right time.
Asked if he could see a scenario in which both quarterbacks played this season, Riley gave the perfect Swiss diplomat answer: “I hope so.”
“Regardless of the quarterback I’m trying to catch it and get some YACs (yards after catch),” he said.
You understand even more why the junior Riley was one of the first-day faces of this team, when he answered the question about how the Bulldogs are coming back from both the highs and ultimate low of last season.
“That’s between the chest,” he said. “We know that last year was last year. We came up short. We don’t want to come up short again. We got to go out and practice hard – and breathe it and believe it.
“We got to come out here and work like we never had anything. Leave the past in the past and focus on the future.”
He’s obviously been listening to the Kirby Smart motivational tapes in his sleep.
This season promises to be a fascinating back-and-forth for our attentions and affections between the Ridley brothers’ two teams.
What the two of them share at this stage is confidence: “I just want to keep going (from that last game). I have unbelievable talent, that’s what I believe. I know the coaches believe in me and that’s really all I need,” said Riley.
How they might express that is a little different: “I’m more of like a physical guy,” said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound younger brother. “I like to attack. I feel my brother is more of a route runner. Not to say I don’t run routes, but I feel I’m more physical. I like to attack.”
Why, kind of like another Falcons receiver, another Alabama guy, and another possible resource for a nearby college kid. The last name’s Jones.
“I love to watch Julio’s highlights,” Riley said. “I love that he’s a big and physical guy, that’s what I try to see myself as.” (The two haven’t had any quality time together just yet).
With a first-round draft pick of a brother just a few miles away, the comparisons and contrasts will be even more evident. And persistent will be the notion that the younger brother will be driven to chase the success of the elder.
“I wouldn’t say chasing,” Riley said. “I want to work hard because that’s what I want to do. That’s in me. That’s what my coaches expect out of me. I wouldn’t say I’m trying to chase my brother. Right now, my coaches are demanding good things out of me and so are my teammates. So that’s what I’m trying to focus on.”
The brothers have been strongly committed to each other since sharing their difficult childhoods in South Florida.
Committing to the “G” will come somewhat more grudgingly, if at all, to older brother Calvin. That’s only natural.