ATLANTA – It wasn’t that the name too closely aligned him with his more famous older brother. It wasn’t that he wanted to escape Calvin Ridley’s shadow. There was a simpler explanation for the man formerly known as Cavin Ridley – one letter apart, if your eye glances over it too quickly – to declare that henceforth he would be known as Riley Ridley – one letter apart in a different way.
“I like Riley, and I don’t like answering to Cavin all the time,” he said.
It’s that simple. And he’s always been known as Riley, his middle name, anyway.
“His name is Cavin. No one calls him that, though,” Calvin Ridley said. “Since we were growing up, we’ve called him Riley.”
It certainly will make it simpler for the broadcast crew covering Monday night’s National Championship Game: Calvin Ridley is the established star receiver for powerhouse Alabama, and Riley Ridley is the promising sophomore receiver for up-and-coming Georgia.
“Someone told me it’s not a national championship unless there’s a Ridley in it. Now you have two,” Riley Ridley said. “Since my brother’s been to college, he’s always been here. Now to be here and see what he’s experienced, it’s beautiful.”
James Coley recruited both brothers. But only one successfully. Coley was the offensive coordinator at Miami when Calvin and then Riley were coming up in South Florida, but Coley always got the sense it was an uphill fight. Neither brother wanted to stay close to home. And when Alabama came calling for Calvin, that pretty much did it.
“We wanted him like crazy at Miami,” Coley said.
Then Coley was hired as Georgia’s receivers coach in early January 2016. As the new UGA staff put together its recruiting board, Coley added a name to it: Riley Ridley. Now he thought he had a chance at him. Riley had come to a Georgia camp when Mark Richt was coach and liked it, and Coley had a good rapport with him.
“Got lucky, really. Because we had just a few days to sell him on Georgia, sell him on the staff, and our vision, and what Coach [Kirby] Smart wants to do. And he bought in. I think Georgia was always in his heart, was always a school he liked.”
Calvin Ridley also helped get his younger brother there.
“He actually told me if I was thinking about Georgia, that it fit me really nice, and I should go there,” Riley Ridley said.
Calvin was by this time already emerging as a star. He will enter the National Championship Game on Monday night, likely his final one in college, second in Alabama history in receptions (220) and third in receiving yards (2,749).
Riley Ridley hasn’t quite had the same impact at Georgia. After a decent freshman season (12 catches for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns), he took a backseat to other receivers this year, making 8 catches for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Calvin Ridley is slightly smaller (6-1 and 190 pounds) and faster, while Riley Ridley (6-2 and 197) is a bit more physical.
“They’re really similar at times, their body demeanor, their mannerisms,” Coley said. “And then obviously Calvin’s probably a faster player and has elite speed. But Riley has speed, I don’t know if it’s that elite. But Riley is tough, and I‘m sure Calvin is tough too. Real great kids.”
Riley Ridley will admit that he needs to get better at running routes. Calvin Ridley will say his little brother is selling himself short.
“He can run routes,” Calvin Ridley said. “He’s a good player. I swear he is. He just needs to learn a little bit more. But I would say he’s more of a tough guy, I’m more laid-back.”
They also have two younger brothers. They’ll be at the game along with their mother, and all have chosen sides: Georgia. Which appears OK with the Ridley bureau in Tuscaloosa.
“We all close but I think they like him more,” Calvin Ridley said. “I left for college before then, and they had longer [with him].”
Riley Ridley speaks only admiringly of his older brother. Going by Riley really wasn’t about gaining some separation. He seems comfortable in his brother’s fame and his own.
That doesn’t mean he feels the need to be just as famous right away. He sounded confident his own time will come.
“My brother is a college football receiver. And a pretty good one,” Riley Ridley said. “I wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t say that just because of what my brother did I should have the hype around me. I’m just trying to build my own thing.”