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Acalanes senior punter and kicker Hunter Ridley nearly watched his football career fade away before it ever really took off.
Ridley wanted to be a receiver when he first arrived at Acalanes, but that never came to fruition. In fact, football never came to fruition that year, as he was kicked off the team, serving as a motivational tool for Ridley every day.
“Proving people wrong,” Ridley said. “There’s a lot of people that, especially since my freshman year, I didn’t even play my freshman year. I got kicked off the team, and coming back and proving people wrong and saying that I can do this. And going to the next level, it’s what I live for.”
All Ridley could do was look ahead and focus on what he could control. All he could control was his work ethic.
So, Ridley found a way to respond to the early adversity. He was not going to quit or let any doubters interfere with his ultimate goals.
And all Ridley did accomplish was one feat after another as an Acalanes Don the next few years.
The Dons won a league championship – the program’s first in 30 years – in 2019 and then went 5-1 in an abbreviated 2021 spring campaign, with Ridley as a fixture in many of those contests to lift the team to a No. 14 spot in the Bay Area Football Rankings.
“I just kept working my butt off. Every day I would get up and I would just keep working, thinking about this exact moment, doing something crucial for the team to win it all.”
As a senior, Ridley averaged 36.6 yards per punt and pinned four inside the 20-yard line. One of those games – the season finale versus Cal – was a day when he averaged 54 yards per punt, including putting Cal at its own 6-yard line on the final drive, along with hitting a 47-yard extra point.
“They’ve just helped me with ball height, really working on my plant foot, being able to work under pressure,” Ridley said. “They’re really good because they’re guys in high tier programs and they’ve been through it all.”
While the recruiting process is slow for Ridley, he understands why and that kickers/punters are some of the last athletes to fill up roster spots.
Ridley has announced three separate Division I offers on Twitter, including two in December from Stetson and Wagner.
One thing a school will get from him: everything he’s got.
“As a student, I go 100% in everything I do,” Ridley said. “And as a player you’re going to get the best punter you’ve ever gotten.”
Plus, they will get a culture changer – as evidenced in the journey Ridley has been on at Acalanes.
He was once kicked off the team. Three years later, Ridley is grateful for it all, grateful to be standing here as a star kicker and punter, a league champion and someone who helped change the course of Dons football forever.
“This is a brotherhood to me,” Ridley said. “Everyone on this team I love. Since my sophomore year when I played to my junior year and my senior year, I’ve bonded with every single one of them and I can call them family.”
I know Hunter and his story. He’s a fierce competitor and a work ethic that’s going to take him a long way in this game. Any D1program that lands him is going to get a kicking machine and a game changer for special teams. He’s a special kid and talent. I can’t wait to see what’s the next chapter in his journey.
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