A gifted artist and athlete, Jim Ridlon arrived at Syracuse University in 1954 and played football. He lined up at halfback and defensive back for the Orangemen from 1954-1957. He was drafted by the San Francisco in the fourth round. He played six seasons with the 49ers and then played with the Dallas Cowboys. He was named an All-Pro defensive back in 1964.
He was an assistant coach under Ben Schwartzwalder and was also an art professor at his alma mater. After football, Ridlon embraced his passion for art and became one of the country’s top sports sculptors. His major pieces include creating the Outland Trophy, ABC’s Wide World of Sports 25th Anniversary collage, Syracuse University’s 100th Football Anniversary collage, the Baseball Writers Association of America Scholar-Athletes Awards and the 35th Anniversary Disneyland Assemblage.
Ridlon's work, which has received over 20 prizes and awards, is displayed in over 200 permanent collections including the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, the State Legislature Building in Albany, and at Binghamton University.
Ridlon stayed connected to SU football by serving as a color commentator for SU broadcasts on WSYR and New York State Radio Network (1961-2000). Ridlon, a member of the Syracuse University faculty since 1965, served as chair of the Department of Foundation (1984-1988) and has been a member of numerous school committees.
1956: Won Joe Alexander Award for Excellence in Football, Scholarship and Citizenship
1957: Won Pat Miller Award for Outstanding Athlete-Citizen-Student
1957-1964: Played with San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, All-Pro defensive back.
1976: Named Football’s Man of the Year in the Arts
1983: Named a Letter Winner of Distinction at SU
1987: Honored as the College Educator of the Year by CBS and ESPN
1989: Received Sport Artist of the Year Award from the American Sport Art Museum and Archives
1997: Received the Outstanding Faculty Award from SU's School of Art and Design; Received an honorary degree from Cazenovia College
Other significant work: Ridlon created the awards that were given to Chancellor's Citation recipients in 1986 and 1996 and to the Big Apple Award recipients in 1997 and 1998. He created the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy for the SU athletic department, a "100 Years of Syracuse Football" assemblage that is installed in the Carrier Dome and a Roy Simmons Coaches Roster Plaque.