For any prospects who end up falling in the NFL Draft, the wait can be excruciating. For former Texas Longhorns defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, who received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board before giving up his final season of eligibility, that was certainly the case, as he fell into the second half of the fourth round before being selected No. 116 overall by the Indianapolis Colts.
"I don't even want to talk about that," Ridgeway said with a smile on Saturday. "That was rough. I wouldn't put my worst enemy through that. That was not fun."
The 6'3, 308-pounder said that he never second-guessed his decision to turn pro during the long wait, but the difference in rookie contracts between the middle of the second round and the middle of the fourth round is about $1.5 million over the four-year deal. Each pick that came off the board from where Ridgeway was generally projected to where he was taken cost him money -- about $100,000 per pick.
Fortunately, Ridgeway had some moral support from former players, including New England Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who had a much shorter wait last season when the Patriots took him with the final pick of the first round.
"He was letting me know it doesn't matter where you go," Ridgeway said. "It doesn't matter at all whether you get drafted in the first, second, fourth, fifth round. He said that, 'You made it to the NFL. What are you going to do with it now?' They already told me, it doesn't matter where you go. Now I'm here."
Here is Indianapolis after Ridgeway finally got the long-awaited phone call from the team's general manager, leading to an emotional moment with his mother. While it wasn't surprising that a franchise finally decided to move on the high-upside prospect, Ridgeway was a bit surprised that it was the Colts on the other end of the line, as he hadn't spoken with them at all during the pre-draft process.
Known as a respectful and low-key person off the field -- much like Brown -- Ridgeway hasn't always been as driven as Brown on the field, so his motor is one of the biggest question marks surrounding his transition to the NFL. As defensive coordinator Vance Bedford noted in 2014, Ridgeway could be a beast if he finally gets mad on the field.
Considering that Ridgeway was the fifth-most productive pass rusher among defensive tackles last season and ranked fifth in win rate against the run, it could be scary to see what happens if Ridgeway does use his fall in the draft to get a little bit angry on the field.
"The motivation is every pick that went in front of me," he said. "That's a big motivation. I don't care what anybody says, I feel like I was the best player in the draft, and every single one of them is going to say the same thing. That's always motivation."
Some NFL draft analysts didn't think much of Ridgeway as a prospect when playing outside as a five tech in the odd fronts employed by the Longhorns, but he sees that experience as valuable because he has played a variety of roles and believes that prepared him for the next level.
He also knows that as a product of Texas football, the success he ultimately achieves in the NFL will reflect on more than himself, which conveys a certain level of responsibility.
"It's a tradition that we're trying to make here, so that when you come here, you know Texas is about defensive linemen," Ridgeway said. "It's one of the things that stands out. One of the reasons I came here is because I had Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor in front of me and those two are both in the league right now. It's D-Line U."
With a little motivation provided by going in the fourth round to unlock those beastly attributes, Ridgeway has the opportunity to give some substance to that claim as one of the highest-upside defensive tackles in a deep class. Here's hoping Ridgeway finally puts it all together at the next level.