INDIANAPOLIS – As Jalen Hurts addressed the media attending his media session at the NFL combine, he couldn't help but gush over Falcons' wide receiver Calvin Ridley and the impact he's had on his career.
Hurts and Ridley played two seasons together at Alabama in 2016-17 and were also roommates. With Hurts at quarterback, Ridley caught 135 passes for 1,736 yards. After three seasons in Tuscaloosa, Hurts transferred to the University of Oklahoma where he played the 2019 season and was a Heisman Trophy nominee.
Since being drafted as the No. 24 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ridley has continued to impress. In two seasons with the Falcons, Ridley has caught 127 passes for 1,687 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Ridley's immediate success in the NFL didn't come as a surprise to Hurts who said his work ethic makes him unique. Any time Hurts wanted to get a late-night throwing session in, Ridley was always willing to go catch passes.
"He worked his tail off," Hurts said. "Any time I wanted to throw late at night, he was always down. I'm not surprised at the success he's having at the NFL level. He's a great person."
Hurts is one the top draft prospects at the quarterback position in this year's draft class and has thrown passes to a number of talented receivers over the last five years. When asked who sits at the top of the list of the receivers he's throw too, Hurts said that title might have to go to Ridley.
"He was probably the first, so he has a different impression on me," Hurts said. "He might be No. 1."
Ridley's impact on former Alabama players doesn't stop with Hurts. Star wide receivers Jerry Juedy and Henry Ruggs III also discussed the impact Ridley has had on their career.
"He's definitely helped me with my confidence," Ruggs said. "He doesn't let me get down or overthink anything."
Both Ruggs and Jeudy said Ridley's route-running ability is a trait they both desire to have and they watch his film hoping to emulate his game.
Ridley ended the 2019 season on injured reserve with an abdomen injury but appears to be more than ready for the start of the upcoming season.