The Chicago Bears finished their dismal 2017-18 season and many of us immediately looked to the next NFL draft for some answers on how to save our team.

We just finished watching Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright lead our stunted passing game and for many of us, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley started showing up on our collective radar with the Bears pick at #8 overall.

That was until March 13th, 2018 when Ryan Pace ended the Ridley speculation by signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel to multi-year deals.

The Bears went on to take Roquan Smith with the 8th pick, but do many remember the brief Twitter storm, when Ryan Pace attempted to trade back into the 1st round in order to pick-up Calvin Ridley? It would have been a great move considering Calvin had 821 yards and 10 TDs as a rookie.

However, that news quickly faded as the Bears trade offers were declined, the Falcons drafted Calvin. Instead, Pace traded back into the 2nd round to select Memphis star WR Anthony Miller.

A year has passed and the Bears have just finished drafting Calvin’s younger brother, wide receiver Riley Ridley. Suffice to say, Ryan Pace has knowledge of the Ridley family that goes deeper than football. But why does he think it’s so important that the Bears get a Ridley in the locker room? The answer lies beyond the football tape and the Ridley family history may reveal some of these answers.

Cavin Riley Ridley was born July 26th, 1997 in College Park, Georgia. For the purpose of telling his story accurately, I believe it’s appropriate to address him as Cavin until mentioned otherwise.

Cavin, his older brother Calvin, parents Colin and Kay as well as two younger brothers moved from Georgia to Coconut Creek, Florida, just a little North of Miami.

Soon after moving, in 2001 the young family was struck by tragedy. At the early age of 4, Cavin’s father Colin was deported back to his home country of Guyana, where the family never heard from him again.

This was hard on the family, especially on Kay. A single-mother of four was too much to handle and she consequently had to put Calvin and Cavin in a foster home. Sports soon became a refuge for the boys, an outlet from the present darkness which loomed over the family.

The brothers would play any sport under the sun and Sunland Park in Fort Lauderdale became their second home. Through sports they became good friends with Ronnie Hoggins and Cousin Shawn Burgess-Becker. In true Hollywood fashion, the two brothers had no parents for most of their childhood, but brought stability and guidance to one another much like Peter Pan’s “Lost Boys.”

Calvin, Cavin, Shawn and Ronnie were like a young boy band within the South Florida sports community.  As a group they trained, practiced and dominated together.

Kay, being a resilient mother, got her life in order and was able to bring her sons home during their high school years.

She wanted to keep the band together so she sent Calvin and Cavin off to Monarch High School where Shawn and Ronnie were already enrolled. The foursome provided instant dividends, as they helped team to its first state playoff appearance in school history.

The quartet brought all the desired skills you could want in a football player. Calvin had the speed, which he often used beat opponents with simple deep routes. Shawn and Ronnie were the athletic defensive backs that blanketed opposing receivers. Cavin, although three years younger, possessed the height and body control necessary to snag passes that would fall incomplete in any other scenario.

Ronnie told reporter Walter Villa, “If we needed a catch on 3rd down and coverage was tight, we knew we could go to Riley.”

Once Calvin graduated, Cavin, who then opted to go by his middle name, Riley, opted to transfer to Deerfield Beach High. His one underwhelming season did little to enhance his national profile. Still, he was able to earn a scholarship from the University of Georgia.

His first two years at Georgia weren’t anything to write home about, until his coming out party in the National Championship game against Alabama. While his state line wasn’t eye-popping (6 receptions for 82 yards), it helped catapult him into a more prominent junior season. Gone were Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who took a majority of touches for the Georgia offense. This allowed Riley to showcase his ability as the number one receiver for the Bulldogs.

For the Ridley, everything he has achieved thus far has been earned. There were no victories in life that were handed to him. Heartbreak after heartbreak, struggle after struggle, Riley fought with destiny to become something more than a footnote in history.

Ryan Pace not only found himself a precise route-runner and sure-handed catcher, but also a mentally strong player. His life is the embodiment of the Bears 2018 season. He has been challenged and refined, he no longer shakes when tested. Nothing can compare to the pressure he endured early in life. While the pressures of football can be intense, they are nothing compared to the life pressures Ridley faced and overcame. With this continued approach to life and football, Riley Ridley can be another piece of the puzzle that helps propel the Chicago Bears to the top of the NFL.