Ridder had to decide quickly whether he would return to the Bearcats after Cincinnati's Peach Bowl defeat to Georgia.
Ridder's decision was influenced by many factors. His NFL projections were not consistent - anywhere from third to sixth round. Claire Cornett, his longtime girlfriend, was due to have their first child in the middle of the draft. Ridder's return means that 15 of his preseason top-10 players could be back with a team that has the potential to crash and grab the College Football Playoff.
Ridder's decision one year later is still a landmark in the history of the sport. Ridder led Cincinnati (13-0), made a historic run to CFP, and played his way into the NFL draft's first-round conversation. He also started a family in the same city where he and his wife grew up in Louisville. Their daughter, Leighton Elizabeth was also a breakout star on the season, receiving enough Instagram love and airtime.
Ridder stated, "To be here now and be part of Cincinnati and be something special, it means much to me." It's definitely my home away form home.
There were both tangible and intangible prizes offered during the season. Although exact figures are not available, it is safe to estimate Ridder earned more than $250,000 in sponsorships of his name, image, and likeness. The year went beyond upgrading from a Kia a Range Rover, or treating his linemen and colleagues to Bose headphones or dinner at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse.
Ridder is also a Cincinnati legend, both at the school and in the city. Ridder was a local star and a household name, which opened up the possibility of more financial opportunities down the line. Yahoo Sports reports that the draft stock of the NFL's draft stock is between 20 and 40. This means that he could make millions in guaranteed money. The rookie deal that the last pick of the first round earns nearly $7 million more than the one in the third.
When No. 4 Cincinnati plays No. 4 Cincinnati plays No. Ridder has another opportunity to show the power and potential that comes with being a star and returning to college.
Fickell stated to Yahoo Sports that "the way things have worked out it's going be one we use as an instance for years to come."
This was possible because of the meeting at Fickell's office one year ago. It was not given. Fickell, an old wrestler who is focused on the future, doesn't like to reflect or introspection. Fickell took a moment to reflect on how Ridder's past has been - an undefeated season and a growing family, as well as his ideal career foundation.
"You think about that three-and-a-half-hour conversation with him and his family, and laying it out," Fickell said in a phone interview. This is where you should be. This is what you can do. We are proud to offer you the chance to be a complete quarterback.
Brady Collins, strength coach, had his team do seven sets of stadium steps in Nippert Stadium as part of summer workouts. Six were for home games and one was for the possibility of the American Athletic Conference title game. Ridder ended his career in Nippert at 26-0. This is one of many mind-bending stats, including Ridder's record 43-5 as a starter and 21 consecutive regular-season wins.
Ridder's legacy is fuelled by the intimacy of Cincinnati and its 40,000-seat stadium. No matter what the outcome of Friday's game (BetMGMG has the Bearcats at 13.5 points underdogs), Ridder remains the most decorated player on the most celebrated and decorated team in school history.
Ridder laughed when asked about the possibility that this team might come back for reunions and to be toasted. He said, "I hope the players who are still playing in twenty years or more remember my name and how I came to games as a child." "Hopefully, I'm still at the top of the record books and hopefully I'll be on the Ring of Honor by then."
Ridder, a college star player, will be making hundreds of thousands of dollar by then. Ridder made his decision to return to college without the help of NIL. 11 months ago, the legislation was more theoretical than it was actual. It was this summer that Ridder signed deals which included a car (Bluegrass Motor Sport), clothing, headphones (Bylt), NFT (Candy Digital), and all the memorabilia, jersey, and trading card deals that are familiar to college students.
However, what he has achieved and earned, and how he set himself up for the future, will be a guideline for other players who make similar decisions. NIL provided Ridder and his family with some comfort. Brian McLaughlin who was Ridder's NIL agent, said that Ridder's ability to earn real income over the past year helped alleviate some of the stresses.
Fickell appreciated that he included and rewarded his teammates with extra cash.
Joel Dublanko, Cincinnati's star linebacker, said that "He had the maturity and to realize that he should share some wealth with guys on his team, as well as taking care of his linemen." It was cool to be able see this, and it adds to the quality of his leadership.
It's fun to recall the year-old story that Ridder was returning to Cincinnati. The top three listed contenders for the quarterback position in 2021 were UNC's Sam Howell and Arizona State's Jayden Dans, USC’s Kedon Slovis, USC’s Kedon Daniels, Georgia's JT Dalton, and Iowa State's Brock Purdy.
Liberty's Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett from Pitt and Ridder all soared past this crew. (Pickett's decision not to return home will be as wise as Ridder. Ridder also did it with the ability of sharing his wealth. Ridder said that instead buying his cousins a Cincinnati Tshirt for Christmas, he asked his aunts, uncles, and cousins what they wanted.
Ridder stated, "I went out to get it." I want to see their faces beam with joy. It is important to me to be able to give back.
Ridder helped bring joy to Cincinnati with his sun-kissed spirit. Ridder is certain that this team and he will be remembered for their priceless memories and solid benefits. Perhaps inspire others to follow his example.