Desmond Ridder on challenges of NFL: ‘That’s what excites me most’

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The Atlanta Falcons’ streak of eight consecutive drafts without selecting a quarterback ended over the weekend when Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder fell into their lap in the third round.

Prior to draft night, Ridder penned an open letter to all NFL general managers, via The Players Tribune. Inside this letter, headlined “Dear NFL General Managers,” Ridder highlighted how he had been overlooked coming out of high school, which fueled his desire to win. He also discussed the reward that came with overcoming those early obstacles in his life.

“I played well in high school, but I wasn’t a guy who had all the college offers,” said Ridder. “I remember when Coach Wolford sat me down and we had, let’s say, a very honest conversation, about what I was going to have to do to play at the next level. He let me know that it wasn’t going to be easy, that I was going to have to fight for my spot.”

Ridder came to Cincinnati as a three-star recruit, according to ESPN and 24/7 Sports, and couldn’t even crack the top 1,600 prospects on 24/7’s recruiting board. Ridder wasn’t even ranked on the national, regional, or state level for ESPN’s 2017 recruiting class.

“Pretty soon, I started to see my underdog status as an opportunity. Actually, to be frank: I started to see it as a challenge. I’d think to myself, Des, I bet they’re right. I bet you WON’T do it. I bet you CAN’T be that guy. Those challenges fueled me. They taught me to scrape and grind.”

One thing that stuck with Ridder from his time in high school was how to handle tough situations and not let nerves get the better of you. “Nerves are for the unprepared,” wrote Ridder when talking about a flashback to a conversation between him and his high school position coach.

Replacing a quarterback like Matt Ryan, who is atop the league all-time in game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks, having a quarterback with a similar “ice” mentality could bode well for the Falcons in dire situations.

“When I’m in a tough situation, I’m never nervous, because that situation is everything that I’ve prepared for and that I’m built for. So when it’s time to make any in-game adjustments, I know I can make them without panicking. “O.K., there’s pressure in the pocket?? No problem. Look downfield, Des — there’s your man. They’re sending the blitz?? Alright — now just get to the outside corner and run for the first down.”

Preparation will be the key for Ridder during his first season with the Falcons. After trading Matt Ryan, the team brought in Marcus Mariota on the same day, who should be the day one starter come August. Ridder can just sit and learn the finer points of the game, such as how to break down disguised defensive packages and reading NFL defenses.

“Listen, I won’t lie. I knew going into the draft process I would have my skeptics. They exist everywhere, on everyone. I know that people have their opinions and question marks about me as a player. And I know those question marks won’t necessarily go away, even after I get drafted — there’s going to be a whole new set of challenges in front of me once I get to the NFL. I know that, but as I said: I welcome that. The challenge of it, that’s what excites me most about this game.”

To read the full letter by Falcons QB Desmond Ridder, and more, visit The Players’ Tribune.

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