Hassan Ridgeway leaving early for NFL draft

Junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway has elected to leave school early and enter the 2016 NFL Draft (photo via texassports.com).
Junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway has elected to leave school early and enter the 2016 NFL Draft (photo via texassports.com).

By Steve Lansdale

AUSTIN, Texas — Junior defensive tackle has announced that he will forego his senior season at the University of Texas and will enter the 2016 NFL Draft.

“I just discussed it with my parents and my family, seeing what was best for me, and right now, I think it’s best to come out this year,” Ridgeway said. “My teammates and coaches mean a lot to me. Everything that’s happened at UT has helped me. That includes my teammates and coaches, and everything they’ve done has helped me to get to this point.”

Ridgeway earned all-conference recognition in 2015 when he was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. He started 18 of the 36 games in which he played during his three seasons as a Longhorn, collecting 92 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss and a pair of fumble recoveries.

Texas head coach Charlie Strong said that while he was disappointed to see the anchor in the middle of the defensive line leave Austin a year earlier than he had to, he harbors no ill will toward Ridgeway for his decision.

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“Hassan is a really talented young player whose best years are ahead of him,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “We appreciate everything he has done for Texas, and though we’re disappointed to lose him, we will continue to support him any way we can. We wish Hassan the best.”

Likewise, Ridgeway shared his gratitude toward the Texas coaches for continually challenging him.

“Coach Strong has always had a lot of faith in me and my ability, and he’s always pushed me,” Ridgeway said. “It’s been a great help, both him and the coaching staff: (defensive line) Coach (Brick) Haley, (defensive coordinator) Coach (Vance) Bedford. They’ve really pushed me and helped me become a better player and person. That’s not saying I can’t still get better, but they’ve pushed me farther than I thought was possible.”

Ridgeway played in 11 games in 2015, starting eight straight before sitting out of the Baylor game due to injury. He had 36 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and led the team with two fumble recoveries. In two games, he registered six tackles in a game, including against Oklahoma State, when he added one sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, one pressure and a 34-yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown.

“My career as a Longhorn has been very important to me, and I really appreciate (former) Coach (Mack) Brown for giving me that opportunity,” Ridgeway said. “I spent four years there and wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone to UT. I wouldn’t change that for anything. I feel like it shaped me into the person I am, and I can be happy for that. I’m going to be a Longhorn until the day I die. There’s no changing that.”

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