Stone Bridge graduate Chase Ridley goes airborne for one of his many spectacular catches, this time against Highland Springs in the 2015 VHSL 5A North State Championship game. / Photo © Aaron Wyche/Viva Loudoun
Ashburn, VA (June 23, 2016) – Undersized is a word used liberally these days.
In basketball, if a player isn’t well above the 6-foot mark, he is considered undersized. The same goes for pitchers in baseball, quarterbacks in football, and the list goes on. Even successful athletes like Stephen Curry, who is well above the 6-foot threshold, can be viewed in this light simply by their appearance.
Stone Bridge football product Chase Ridley has been fighting the “undersized” battle his whole life. The recent high school graduate and soon-to-be West Virginia Mountaineer slot receiver never let those doubters get in the way of his drive for a life in sports.
“I’ve played tackle football since I was seven years old,” Ridley said, “so I’ve always been one of the smallest kids on the field, but when you go through it season after season, it really doesn’t bother you anymore.”
Standing at about 5’10” with his cleats on and 150 pounds, Chase Ridley might not look like a Division I wide receiver, but don’t blink, because he will run right by you.
Like many undersized prospects, Ridley had to wait his turn to display his strong skill set. After seeing limited action strictly on defense on the freshman team, he earned a starting position on both offense and defense on the JV team as a sophomore.
“I wasn’t too much of a standout at that time,” Ridley said “but sophomore year I got extreme amounts of playing time. I think that’s when I truly saw my potential that was there, and a lot of other people, including the coaches, started to see it too.”
He made the jump to the varsity level as a junior, but hardly touched the field yet again on a deep Bulldog squad.
“The reps were extremely limited, it was kind of a hard process, we had a lot of good players on both sides of the ball,” Ridley said.
Junior year is critical in terms of gathering momentum in recruiting. Most Division I programs identify their prospects during their junior year, significantly lowering Ridley’s chances to play collegiately at a high level.
Yet, he remained determined to reach his lofty goals.
“I knew coming into my senior year, I was going to have to work really hard to compete and to get to that next level. I did a lot of offseason work, went to a lot of camps and did a lot of workouts,” Ridley said.
The big jump he was looking for happened right away as he entered his senior year in a starting role at both running back and wide receiver. Coach Mickey Thompson began to utilize the speedster heavily in his famous single wing offense both as a wingback and as a receiver.
In the opening game of the 2015 season, Ridley had the breakout performance he needed, catching eight passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
“A lot of college coaches were telling me the first half of my season needed to be phenomenal in order for me to even get looks from Division I, II or III schools, so my first couple games I had to really show what I had,” Ridley said.
The rest of the season was more of the season from the speedy and versatile offensive weapon, as he amassed 558 yards rushing on just 69 attempts, an average of eight yards per carry, and 474 yards receiving. He finished his strong senior year with a team-high 19 total touchdowns, 12 rushing and seven receiving.
“I’m really blessed and grateful to be able to have the type of season I had my senior year, I really broke out and really opened a lot of eyes,” Ridley said. “It was all I could have asked for and more, it was really a dream come true.”
Not only did he achieve personal success as a senior, Ridley and the Bulldogs reached the Virginia 5A state championship game in 2015 before ultimately falling to Highland Springs. They rattled off six wins in a row to reach the title game after starting the season at just 4-4.
“It was a tough year, we had so much adversity, but we knew that we had a great amount of potential on the team,” he said. “We weren’t really used to that up-and-down play, so we had to come together as a team and work really hard.”
That hard work certainly paid off as they nearly brought the state title back to Ashburn. Prior to Ridley’s senior year, the Bulldogs had last reached the title game in 2012 when he was a member of the freshman team, thus he was not able to a part of the experience.
“To reach states as a senior, it’s what every football player dreams of,” Ridley said.
After ending his high school career on a high note, Ridley is looking forward to big things at West Virginia. For beginning the recruiting process late in the game, he feels blessed to have been given an opportunity at such a high level institution.
“At West Virginia, I had built so many relationships with the coaches and the receiving coach having gone to camps there and being around the system and the facilities, it felt comfortable there. It was an easy decision really,” he said.
The West Virginia program is also known for producing NFL-caliber wide receivers.
Players like Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Kevin White have all been drafted out of the program into the NFL in recent years. Austin is listed at 5’8” and Bailey at 5’10”, proving the term “undersized” is a thing of the past.
“They’ve had plenty of receivers that have come out of their system recently, they know how to use guys my size,” Ridley said.
Between now and reporting to school later this summer, Ridley will be working on his strength through weight training and trying to consume more food, his route running mechanics, and his hands.
Luckily for him, speed, quickness and footwork came natural. Additionally, he has what it takes to be successful mentally.
“I’m really football smart, some people get blessed with a 6’5” and 250-pound frame, but for me, I make up for that with my knowledge of the game, my ability to read the field and read the situations that I’m in,” Ridley said.
He is certainly eager to begin his Mountaineer career, but Ridley looks back on his years at Stone Bridge fondly.
“I couldn’t have asked to go to a better school,” he said, “I appreciate everything the coaches have done for me, the school, the whole system.”
His favorite part about playing under the lights in Ashburn was the atmosphere surrounding the Bulldog program and the participation from the local community.
“It’s a great atmosphere, it’s one of those schools that has a great football program year after year, there’s always an expectation,” Ridley said. “It’s a great program to be under the way Coach Thompson teaches us, not only about the game itself, but also life lessons. It’s one of those schools that’s really tight-knight and everyone comes out and supports the football team.”
With his prep journey now complete and having played in a great high school environment, Ridley is most excited about the opportunity to play in an even better atmosphere at a top-tier Big-12 program.
“I love the atmosphere there, coming out of that tunnel, being able to play in front of thousands of fans is something I’m really looking forward to,” he said, “especially with a school like West Virginia where they enjoy football so much and everyone comes out.”
Ridley will be redshirting this fall in Morgantown, but hopes to be ready to go for 2017.
“I’ll get a chance to learn the playbook, get used to the offense, get used to the school life, and put some weight on to get ready for the next season,” Ridley said.
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