Gary Swenson wasn’t intending to pull John Raridon up to the West Des Moines Valley varsity as a freshman in 2012. He certainly wasn’t going into that season expecting that Raridon would be a starting offensive lineman by the end of it.
That’s how it happened, though, and probably was the dead giveaway that Raridon was going to be a special player.
“We had some injuries,” Swenson said. “He was actually playing tight end on our sophomore team. We had a kid get hurt, we’d been watching how he handled the physical part … and, shoot, there was no question he was our best option. He took some lumps as a freshman, but as a sophomore he took off.”
Swenson said Raridon started about a half-dozen games to finish 2012, and believes that Raridon joined running back Champ Davis as the only freshmen to start for the Tigers in his 21 years as head coach. Davis spent two years at West Des Moines Valley before moving to Plano, Texas, then signed with Iowa in 2003 and played four seasons for the Hawkeyes.
Raridon, a U.S. Army All-American, signed with Nebraska on Wednesday, and Swenson knows he will miss the three-time all-state pick and son of former NU offensive tackle Scott Raridon.
“John is so single-minded when it comes to the game of football,” Swenson said. “Sometimes in high school, those bigger kids haven’t had to work all that hard. He’s just a relentless worker.
“It was fun to have him around the weight room, have him around the program, because he just kind of set the bar. He was a real leader for us for about three years, in just everything. Just a no-nonsense kid.”
In addition to being 6-foot-4 and 271 pounds, Swenson said Raridon maximized his tools by always challenging himself to better develop his speed, strength and agility.
Raridon was so good at taking it to the field that Scout ranks him as the No. 54 overall prospect nationally and No. 2 among offensive guards.
“He has just an innate ability to finish a play,” Swenson said. “He’d run you out of a play, and not just a couple feet, but take you to the bench.”
Raridon committed to Nebraska in September 2014, about two months before Bo Pelini was fired. Swenson said Stanford and Oklahoma were two schools that stayed on him to the end.
“But his resolve to go to Nebraska was firm all through the process, and I think that’s cool,” Swenson said.
Raridon is staying in shape by playing basketball this winter and plans to ramp up his workouts in March. If there was a regret at West Des Moines Valley, it was that the Tigers were stopped in the Class 4-A semifinals in his senior season.
“We didn’t win state, so I guess I wasn’t really that happy with the whole outcome,” Raridon said. “But I guess I was happy with how I played overall, proud of how my team played.”