Andrew Ridgeway – A Change of Plans
Andrew Ridgeway addressed his teammates on Tuesday morning, about 6:30 AM after their morning workout. He will not be playing football with them this fall. He’s been offered a career opportunity that will take him away from his last college football season. He stood before his teammates explaining what had transpired, that he will not suit up on Saturday’s this fall, but he will be supporting them. The response from the team…congratulations, well-wishes, hugs, and telling Ridgeway that he will be missed.
Andrew is a sociology major at JSU from Fort Payne, AL. He’s played in all of our football games since 2007 after a redshirt year, mostly as a starter for the past two seasons. He was 4th on the team in tackles last year. He’s worn #34 for the past 3 seasons, and if you watch the JSU Gameday commercial that has been on TV recently, you will see him in it.
I got the chance to speak with Andrew on the phone this afternoon, and wanted to tell our readers the story. Here’s our conversation:
GI: Andrew, tell us about the opportunity you now have.
AR: The opportunity is a position with the US Department of Agriculture. It is an internship for 4 months, after which, if I do a good job, will lead to a full-time position. The internship covers 640 hours of interning with special agents for the Dept of Agriculture. I will officially work for the Inspector General’s office. The internship and training leads to a position as a full time criminal investigator.
GI: What types of things would you investigate?
AR: Making sure farmers crops are indeed damaged when they report that it is, investigating reported losses, and things like cock-fighting, ironically, being a Gamecock.
GI: Let’s talk about your football career here. When did you arrive at JSU and what memories will you take with you?
AR: I arrived in June 2006. That was my first semester. My memories will be of the bond I have with other players. I’ve been here a long time and have seen many come and go. If you can last at JSU, you have to have character and integrity. We have players with those characteristics now. The coaches helped me along the way, and I consider them friends.
GI: When we talk with other players about leadership, your name comes up often. Who else provides leadership for this team?
AR: I define a leader as someone who is accountable, someone that knows the structure and routine of the program. A leader doesn’t miss practice or other team functions. If we have a workout scheduled for the Friday before spring break, a leader makes sure he is there. When I think of a leader, I would say Curt Porter fits that description. He has the team’s respect.
GI: With you leaving, who will pick up the team in your spot?
AR: I’m not the most gifted athlete. I think I played tough, and I tried to minimize mistakes. Some of the guys that you will see step up are Antonio Bonner, Rodney Garrott, and Monte Lewis. They are all very capable.
GI: Tell me about the team this year. We lost some starters; some talented players. What will this year look like?
AR: This year, the team should be closer, more together. It’s not built around one guy on either side of the ball. The team knows that, and we will see more people stepping up and making plays. The team this year will be focused.
GI: Who do you see that we should be watching for?
AR: Marquez Ivory can make plays, and the team knows that. They believe in him. He is smart and he provides leadership. On top of that, he has the talent. Cam (Jeffery Cameron) is back after a redshirt year. He is a playmaker at WR. Alphonso Freeney is an excellent fullback. Calvin Middleton…he’s a monster. He’s lost a little weight, he’s faster, and he’s more durable. We have more experience on defense. We have corners that can play with anybody. TJ (Heath) is a preseason All-American. AJ Davis hasn’t gotten the recognition yet, but he is another corner that is a special player.
GI: I understand your decision to take the job offer. Can you elaborate on your decision process a little?
AR: It was not an irrational decision. I’m sure it’s the best decision for me. I’ve really enjoyed playing here, but I realize I will not play at the next level. I’m looking at the next step in my life, and have an opportunity for a great career. I’m engaged and need to look to the future. If this works out like I expect it will, I will be financially comfortable, and would be able to retire when I am 48.
GI: You can’t argue with that. Are you on track to graduate?
AR: I need 4 hours and I will get that this fall. I could have graduated in the spring, but that could hurt the team. Let me explain. In the past, we’ve had guys that graduated early and had eligibility left. They took courses toward a graduate degree while they play their final year of eligibility. After that final year, they leave without completed their graduate degree. That counts against JSU on the APR. I didn’t want to do that to the team, so I saved one class for this fall. I’ll take it and graduate.
GI: I heard that you got help on this opportunity from a JSU graduate. How did that happen?
AR: Jim Epik was here last spring and spoke to a couple of us on the football team. Mr. Epik told us what we needed to do to get an internship like this, certain things they look for in an application. He was very helpful, insightful, and humble. I wouldn’t have this opportunity had it not been for his guidance. I give all the credit to JSU and to Mr. Epik. (Jim Epik is a 1983 graduate of JSU in Criminal Justice. He recently retired from his career in Washington, DC, and serves on the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors.)
GI: Any words you want to say to the Gamecock Nation in wrapping up our conversation?
AR: I’m thankful for the opportunity that I received at JSU. I think I’ve taken advantage of the athletic and academic opportunities I’ve had here. With the help of many people here, I am in a position to achieve my goals. I’m very appreciative. I won’t forget that either. I want to give back. I’ll be looking for opportunities to help others.
Thanks once again to jsufan.com for the use of the picture of Andrew.