AUSTIN — Mansfield defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway was the only member of the Longhorns to declare early for the 2016 NFL Draft.
In the end, Ridgeway was the only Longhorn selected in the draft, going in the fourth round to the Indianapolis Colts with the 116th overall pick.
Ridgeway declared early after receiving a 2nd round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. In a class with seniors Daje Johnson, Marcus Johnson, Alex de la Torre, Marcus Hutchins, Duke Thomas, Shiro Davis, Nick Rose, Johnathan Gray and Peter Jinkens, Ridgeway was the only player selected. Rose and Daje inked with Atlanta, Marcus to Philadelphia, Davis to Washington, while Thomas is headed to Houston as rookie free agents.
Although he was the only Longhorn selected this year, Ridgeway was excited to achieve a lifelong goal when he received a call from the Colts.
“Words can’t express how I was feeling when I got the call,” Ridgeway said. “It was amazing.”
The pick from the Colts came out of the blue for Ridgeway, who had very limited contact with the AFC South franchise during the entire pre-draft process.
“I hadn’t talked to them at all,” Ridgeway said. “I didn’t know they were going to pick me.”
As it likely is for most NFL Draft prospects, waiting for his name to be called was the most difficult part for Ridgeway.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Ridgeway said about waiting until day three. “That was rough. I wouldn’t put my worst enemy through that. That wasn’t fun.”
Ridgeway was an All-Big 12 honorable mention selection in 2015. He played in 11 games and recorded 36 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He also scored one touchdown on the season on a fumble recovery against Oklahoma State.
“Hassan is an outstanding young man with great character so Indianapolis is getting a tremendous person. He’s a hard worker and is very hungry to learn,” Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong said in a press release.
“Ridgeway is big, strong and powerful, a guy who can be a problem in one-on-one match-ups, and someone who can also create his own rush. It’s very seldom you can find an inside guy who can create his own pass rush, Ridgeway is one of those guys who can do that. He can play both the run and the pass equally well. I just look forward to watching him play on the next level. I saw a ton of development here, and he’s only going to get better because he’s still learning the game.”
Prior to being selected, Ridgeway said that he kept up with another Texas Longhorn, New England Patriots DT Malcom Brown. Brown, who was selected in the first round in the 2015 draft, kept up with Ridgeway throughout the process.
“[Brown] was texting me last night and letting me know it doesn’t matter where you go,” Ridgeway said. “He said you made it to the NFL. What are you going to do with it now?”
Ridgeway was asked about the impression that Strong’s program had amongst NFL circles. The newest NFL Longhorn said that the responses were overwhelmingly positive.
“They have the utmost respect for it,” Ridgeway said. “I got that impression right off the bat on how they talked about the program and what he’s doing here. They have a lot of respect.”
At one point during the press conference, Ridgeway was asked about being the newest player in the NFL charged with carrying the mantle of DLU for Texas. While some in the room chuckled, Ridgeway defended the title.
“I don’t know why y’all are laughing,” Ridgeway said. “This is the second one in the last two years, and the year before that. You’ve got [Arizona Cardinal] Alex Okafor, [Cleveland Brown] Jackson Jeffcoat, me, Malcom, and that’s not counting all the people before us. It’s something serious. It’s a tradition we’re trying to make here so you know when you come here, Texas is about defensive linemen. It’s one of the things that stands out and one of the reasons I came here.”
Ridgeway said that his versatility and his ability to play multiple positions and techniques on defense was one of the things that teams saw in him. “I can do everything,” he said.
Ridgeway said that he his next career step begins this week.
“I’ll head up there on Thursday,” he said. “The goal is the NFL. This is what you strive for. That’s just one [goal] now. Now I have a lot more to meet.”