From Da Bayou to The ‘Boro
Two former LSU running backs are giving New England a taste of Tiger football
By Cody WorshamPosted Jun 20, 2012
Geographically, Baton Rouge and Boston are thousands of miles apart, and worlds separate the two cities in terms of politics, weather, and cuisine. But, different as they are, the two towns share one bond by which residents are closer than lifelong neighbors: football.
The capitals of Massachusetts and Louisiana revolve around the New England Patriots and the LSU Tigers, two football teams which themselves have many commonalities. Both are dynasties a decade into the most successful eras in their respective leagues, and both made title runs last season, only to fall short in the championship game.
The Patriots and Tigers are fluent in championship football, each speaking the language in their own unique brogue, which explains, in part, why LSU players have found so much success in the Patriots system over the last decade. Winning in New England’s team-first system requires the same qualities as winning at LSU, and the Tigers have provided many important pieces to the Patriots’ championship-winning teams in recent years.
The most notable to make the sojourn from Baton Rouge to Boston was former Tiger All-American running back Kevin Faulk, who was a major factor in all three of New England’s recent Super Bowl victories out of Bill Belichick’s backfield. Though Faulk retired at the end of an injury-ridden 2011 season, the Tiger-Patriot pipeline has extended into the 2012 season in the form of two ex-Tiger tailbacks.
The newest New England ball carrier is long-time Indianapolis Colt Joseph Addai, who signed a one-year, $2.9 million contract with his old divisional rivals in the offseason. He’ll team up with fellow Tiger football alum Stevan Ridley, a 2011 third round pick of the Patriots, to give the Patriot backfield a one-two Tiger attack. For Ridley, the chance to learn under another Tiger-turned-NFL-veteran in his second year promises to be an invaluable opportunity.
“I look up to [Addai], almost like a big brother,” Ridley told reporters last week after the team’s mandatory minicamp practice. “To have this time with him, like I had with Faulk… I’m going to cherish it and learn everything I can from him.”
Ridley says he’s going to lean heavily on the experience of Addai, who racked up 4,453 yards, 39 touchdowns, and a Pro Bowl appearance during six seasons with the Colts, including Indianapolis’ 2007 Super Bowl-winning season.
“He’s an awesome guy, somebody who has seen it all,” Ridley said of Addai. “And he’s very willing to teach. It’s a comfort zone for me to have someone I can depend on who has seen everything that I can learn from.”
Though Ridley speaks as if he aims to be a student of Addai, it’s the elder ex-Tiger who is hoping to pick up a thing or two from the younger. Ridley impressed early and often in his opportunities with the Patriots as a rookie, picking up 441 yards on an impressive 5.1 yards per carry as a backup to BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2011. His success in the system, Addai says, is something he’ll try to mimic.
“I feel like a rookie, as far as understanding the plays,” Addai said. “It’s just trying to understand the plays and kind of know the ins and outs and how to do certain things. I think I’m at that point.”
Ridley insists Addai is being humble, an attribute that will do him wonders in Belichick’s system as it did in LSU’s. Addai was a key piece of LSU’s 2003 national title, as he was in the Colts’ 2007 Super Bowl, so Ridley is confident Addai will have no trouble adjusting to the New England culture of winning.
“There’s nothing that [Addai] hasn’t learned pretty quickly here with Bill [Belichick] because it’s pretty cut and dry here,” Ridley, a 2010 First Team All-SEC performer at LSU, said. “There’s one way to do things, and we come to work every day. It’s going to be hard and we’re going to run after practice, and that’s one thing that [Addai] says that we do more than anyone else is run. So he has learned that and adapted to that, but besides that it’s all football, and as players we just try make it that and not try to make it any harder than it already is. We just have to go out there and be who we are as players.”
Addai should have no problem doing that, as his versatility and experience – key reasons why the Patriots signed him in the first place – will make it difficult to keep him off the field. After all, Addai got his start at LSU as a fullback, and he even got a taste at wide receiver before becoming LSU’s featured running back. Those moves helped mold Addai into a jack-of-all-trades type of back, equally comfortable running off tackle as catching out of the backfield or providing additional pass protection. It’s why he is so matter-of-fact when asked what his role with New England will be.
“Come in and block. Come in and catch the ball. Come in and run. Whatever they ask me to do, game by game, that’s what I’m doing,” Addai said. “It’s good to be out here with these guys. You watch them over the years playing, and how dedicated they are. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Of course, it’s not all buddy-buddy between Ridley and Addai. They are just two of New England’s many running backs in camp, all competing for roster space and playing time. While both are expected to be in New England’s regular season roster in the 2012 season, the team’s featured back position is still up in the air.
For their parts, neither is worried. Having been a part of a winning tradition at both the collegiate and professional ranks, both know one thing: it takes more than one to win.
“We’re not really focused on who’s going to be the guy or anything like that,” Ridley said. “We’re just trying to help each other out and learn together, because if we can all [learn] that playbook, then they can put us anywhere on the field and we can go out there and be successful. That’s when we do better as a unit. One person is not going to get it done all the way through the season and we know that, so we have to be able to depend on everybody.”
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