OGDEN — In one way, Skyler Ridley is a full-time college football coach for the first time because he was a nice guy and a good teammate.
In 2016, Jay Hill had just hired Kelly Bills as quarterbacks coach and Preston Hadley to coach defensive backs — both college teammates of Ridley's at BYU. When Ridley, who was an assistant coach at Bountiful High School, picked up the phone to congratulate them, Hadley had a thought.
"‘We may need a (graduate assistant). If you’re going to grad, school you might as well get it paid for,’" Ridley remembers Hadley saying. "He said, ‘I’m walking into a staff meeting, I’ll bring your name up.’
"He called me about an hour later and said ‘can you come up this afternoon?’"
After three seasons as a graduate assistant, the departures of Bills and tight ends coach Al Pupunu after the 2018 season left openings on Hill's staff. Ridley was an easy fit, and the former receiver was promoted to full-time tight ends coach.
"Skyler has been one of our best assistant coaches for the last couple years, he was just in a different role," Hill said. "He was weaned in this offense and knows what we expect from all position groups, so it was an easy transition for him to take over tight ends."
Ridley said he's excited for the privilege of coaching at Weber State.
"I’ve learned a ton from the guys who have been here and our current staff. I respect coach Hill a lot and what he’s done with the program, so I’m grateful to still be here and be a part of it," he said.
Ridley played receiver for two seasons at BYU from 2012-13, hauling in 59 catches for 675 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest game as a Cougar was a memorable one — one he says earns a little street cred with his current players.
On Oct. 29, 2013, BYU played an unbeaten Houston team in Reliant Stadium and ran a whopping 115 offensive plays. Trailing 46-41, play 109 was Taysom Hill hitting Ridley for 28 yards to the Houston 20.
Then, play 111 was the game-winner, a back-shoulder throw to Ridley from 11 yards out that eventually gave BYU a 47-46 win in which Ridley wrestled his defender off at the goal line for just enough space to snag the throw.
Among BYU fans, it's remembered as one of Hill's best otherworldly performances in his time at BYU (417 passing yards and 128 rushing), a place where he was phenomenal when healthy. Ridley was a big part of it, hauling in eight of those catches for 106 yards.
"I’m eating lunch with a bunch of (WSU players) and few guys say ‘hey coach, I searched your name on the internet last night and watched your highlights and saw your game-winning catch against Houston,’" Ridley related. "I think it brings some respect. I’m a young guy still, at least I like to think I’m still young. So I joke with these guys if they don’t win a route, ‘hey, I could still get open on that route.’"
But that was his college pinnacle. Ridley says the bulk of his BYU career is what he tries to relay to his young tight ends at Weber State.
"I wasn’t the star at BYU, I just moved the chains," he said. "That’s what I always tell them, we need guys like that on the roster who are tough and dependable, and when it’s third down and we need a guy to make a play, help our tight ends grow into that type of guy."
Sophomore tight end and California native Justin Malone returns as an incumbent starter. While battling injury, he caught 20 passes in 11 games for 208 yards and one touchdown last year.
He's the only tight end on the roster with a career catch. The others: redshirt freshman Dallin Jamison from West Jordan, redshirt freshman Hayden Meacham from Layton, freshman Davis Rasmussen from American Fork and walk-on freshman Jon Hunt from Layton.
"They have a tough role because they have to learn the pass game and the run game, so the time they have to spend in their playbook is extensive," Ridley said.
While Ridley didn't play tight end, his experience at receiver goes hand-in-hand with part of the position — and, as a graduate assistant, Ridley was involved in all parts of WSU's offense.
"I have an understanding of how to get open, how to win on routes, certain techniques that will help them win one-on-one matchups. That’s something I feel I bring to the table that will help them progress," he said.
Beyond that, his young group needs confidence, he says.
"I’m a positive guy, I’m passionate and love the game," Ridley said. "So as they develop as young guys, the biggest thing I can do for them is build their confidence so when they come onto the field, they’re prepared."