Valley HC Gary Swenson gives Nebraska commit John Raridon high marks

Valley high school coach Gary Swenson knows a thing or two about Division 1 talent and says Husker commit John Raridon is the best lineman he's ever helped produce.

West Des Moines Valley high school (Iowa) offensive lineman John Raridon is what you call a special player.

Raridon is a four-star prospect and member of the Top 100.

In January, the senior will play in the U.S. Army All-American game.

As only sophomore in 2013, he was named to the Des Moines Register’s Elite All-State football team.

In most families, John would be the most accomplished when it comes to athletic accolades.

The Raridons aren’t most families

Actually nothing John has done on the football field is new to this family. 

Oldest brother Scott Jr. was Gatorade Player of the Year in Iowa in 2001 and eventually a three-year letter winner at Notre Dame. He to played in the U.S. Army All-American game during his senior year of high school. 

Brother Sam was a first-team Class 4A All-State player as a junior and senior at Valley, signing with Wisconsin out of high school.

Did we mention father Scott Sr. also played a little football back in the day as well? He was only a third-team All-American offensive lineman at Nebraska in 1983 before spending a little time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

John might have to win the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top college offensive lineman, before anyone calls him the most accomplished in his family. 

A senior, Raridon will sign with Nebraska in February, continuing his football career in the same steps of his father.

“He just seemed to have a real affection and an allegiance for Nebraska day one,” said Valley high school head coach Gary Swenson. “Knowing his dad played there, I could understand that, but we really didn’t see that in his other siblings. I think the game day experience he saw over in Lincoln just outweighed anything else.”

Raridon wasn’t lacking on options, schools like Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford, Wisconsin, Iowa, Arkansas and Missouri all put a scholarship offer on the table.

“He wasn’t really even interested in visiting,” said Swenson. “He knew from day one. He entertained some other people and thoughts, but in the back of his mind he was always comfortable with Nebraska.”

Swenson knows Raridon’s game well. During preseason camp in 2012, Raridon stood out and the Valley coaching staff decided to play the freshman on the sophomore team.

After a series of injuries early in the year, Raridon got promoted. For the first time in Swenson’s era, dating back to 1996, a freshman was starting on the offensive line.

“He kept showing up as our next best option,” said Swenson. “It was a no-brainer. He wasn’t playing like a ninth grader…We knew we had someone different than most kids at that point. 

Raridon made his first appearance on a Nebraska sideline as a recruit just a year later. Members of the recruiting media scrambled to try to figure out who Raridon initially was. He passed the early eyeball test, despite being a little baby-faced.

John Raridon in 2013 (Josh Harvey /

That was two years ago and Raridon’s development is easy to see when comparing photos of the now senior on the sidelines.

“The bulk of it is hard work. One of the things that I appreciate most about him is his commitment to developing himself physically,” said Swenson. “His approach to training is like you would see college strength coaches demand. He’s had it from day one. A lot of development is simply from working hard.”

At 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, Raridon towers over most defensive ends lined up across from him. Yet, Swenson feels he has plenty of room for growth.

“I think he will get a lot more physical and stronger. I don’t know how much taller he will get,” said Swenson. “When he gets in that strength program at Nebraska, with as much as attention they pay nutrition wise, I think he will fill out and be your typical offensive lineman at Nebraska.

A guy who has been quieter than the average prospect on the recruiting front, Raridon was approached by Swenson this past offseason to become more of a vocal leader in 2015. Swenson always has appreciated Raridon’s work ethic, but wanted to see the four-star prospect demand the same from teammates.

“He sets the tone,” said Swenson. “The other players look to him. It really helped our team. We saw an immediate uptick in our approach to training. Guys just got after it a little bit better.”

Swenson has coached Division 1 lineman before. He’s even had guys on his team eventually become players in the NFL. But when he sees Raridon, he sees a real difference maker.

“I think he gets frustrated here, playing against guys who are clearly not at his level,” said Swenson. “Yet, he’s not arrogant in anyway about his ability. He’s a real team guy. We have had good lineman come out of here. John is the top of our list of all the guys we have produced.”

Very few Division 1 football players come from the state of Iowa. It is usually one of the first things brought up when comparing Raridon’s game to others.

“We feel he’s been coached very well here,” said Swenson, who has won five Class 4A state titles at Valley, the largest classification of football in Iowa. “The kids that come out of here that are offensive lineman, we get feedback that we feel is honest. They are very ready from a fundamental standpoint.

“I think sometimes they get a little shocked by everyone’s ability to play at the level, especially with the defensive lineman’s ability to run. So he’s going to have some work to do, but there will be nothing about he physical part of the game that will make John sit back or hesitant. He loves that type of challenge.”

Raridon plays offensive tackle at Valley, but is expected to be a guard at the next level.

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