Football is a way of life in the Southeastern United States. From high school football to the professional level of the sport, fans and players alike are intensely dedicated to their teams, fanbases and players or teammates. However, here in the South, college football rules all. It’s an intense tradition. For quarterback Robert Riddle, it’s never been any different.
“I started playing in fourth grade, in elementary school,” Riddle said. “Once you get to college, it’s a lot different. It’s a different stature.”
Riddle’s passion for football and athletic talent led him to an illustrious career as a high school star, winning a Regional Player of the Year Award as a senior and being a finalist for Tennessee’s “Mr. Football” Award.
The game had been a way of life for him, and as he headed to college, it didn’t seem as if it would be any different. But it was immediately clear that although it had the same name, college football would be a different game.
“High school football is a lot slower,” Riddle said. “Of course, in college, you just have better athletes. Everyone moves faster.”
Riddle, a redshirt sophomore from Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, earned himself the job as Mercer’s starting quarterback after two games of excellent quarterback play in the 2018 season. Riddle led the Mercer team to upset No. 9 Samford on the road in the third week of the 2018 football season. However, when week four of the Bears’ schedule arrived, the brutality of the game reared its head.
Riddle suffered a broken collarbone on Sept. 22, 2018. The injury sidelined him for the remainder of the 2018 schedule and put an abrupt stop to his first season.
“I didn’t know what it was like to sit out for such a long period,” Riddle said. “I was just really ready to get back doing something, throwing the ball to receivers.”
Now, as the start of the 2019 Mercer football season closes in, Riddle’s long hibernation is finally over. Riddle can say quite a lot about his return with only a few words: “I’m looking forward to scoring a lot of points.”
With training camp underway for the team, Riddle has finally gotten to play the sport that means so much to him again.
Most of all, though, training camp has just given Riddle the opportunity to be himself again, and to him, that only means one thing: a good football player.
“The first day back from the injury, it was amazing,” Riddle said. “I had never sat out for so long.”
Riddle has slid comfortably back into his quarterback role at camp and is meshing well with newly-hired offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill Legg.
“Coach Legg is awesome, he loves working with everyone,” Riddle said. “He can communicate well with each position, he’s not only talking to skill position players like some coordinators. He does a great job.”
With his health intact, there’s no one more prepared for the 2019 season than Robert Riddle, and he is not afraid to display his enthusiasm. Only time and the game film will tell if this enthusiasm can translate into on-field success.
The season -- and Riddle’s anticipated return -- will begin Aug. 31 with an away game against Western Carolina University.
Micah Johnston ‘22 is a journalism and media studies double major who has written for The Cluster since his freshman year at Mercer. He has written on and reported for Georgia Public Broadcasting, The Macon Telegraph and The Macon Newsroom on a variety of topics. He received the Center for Collaborative Journalism’s Junior Honors Award for the 2020-2021 academic year. Micah’s other interests include obsessively following Braves and Mariners baseball, constantly listening to all kinds of music and probably eating junk food.