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'I'm the calm villain': Desmond Ridder on Marcus Mariota, growing up watching Matt Ryan, Michael Vick

Ridder started 48 games over four years at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to a 13-1 record and College Football Playoff appearance.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga -- Arguably the biggest question surrounding the Falcons this offseason was the future at the quarterback position.

Matt Ryan gave the franchise stability and elite quarterback play for fourteen seasons before being traded to the Indianapolis Colts. The Falcons signed number two overall pick Marcus Mariota, who hasn't started at quarterback since 2019. Mariota and the Falcons' leadership made it clear that Mariota was not promised the starting role and that quarterbacks would be added to the roster. The Falcons did that on draft night, selecting Ridder with the 74th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

"Damn near my whole life has been anticipating, waiting on this moment," Ridder told "Getting that call once I saw the Atlanta number, I was like, 'Yeah, that's it.'"

Ridder, a Louisville native, grew up watching former Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone play quarterback for the University of Louisville. Ragone started from 2000-2002, throwing for 3,0567 yards and just seven interceptions as a junior before being drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft.

Ragone was somewhat of a legend in the area, and Ridder still has a bobblehead of his future offensive coordinator, which sits in his garage. He even showed Ragone a picture of the bobblehead when they first met.

Now being coached by Ragone is like a dream come true for Ridder.

"It's definitely a place I wanted to be," Ridder said. "Not too far away from home has a great culture, history of football and winning tradition. So you know you looked at the teams who needed quarterbacks. …This was one of the staff's which I felt like I clicked with the most. I'm excited to be a Falcon. I'm excited to get down there."

Ridder didn't grow up watching much of the Falcons, he says, because, in Louisville, they didn't get many Falcons games in the area, but when he did, quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Michael Vick were players who made him watch. Ridder says Ryan, Vick, and Mariota are players he has looked to model his game after, and he has drawn comparisons to Mariota because of his size and mobility.

"I didn't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but I'm like, 'Man, like, you know if they're gonna get him, like why not get a younger guy, you know, just like him?" Ridder said. "When they picked [Mariota] up, that got me really excited for Atlanta. … I thought it was just a perfect fit."

Along with Mariota, RIdder has drawn comparisons to players like Ryan Tannehill and even Deshaun Watson, but none of them have as cool of a nickname as he has given himself.

"I'm the calm villain," Ridder said. "Ready to strike at any moment. But also cool, calm, and collective, all in the same way. But you know, once I get on that field, it's kind of a different person that steps on the field, kind of a second light switch, just as far as my mentality and my physical gameplay."


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