I'll admit that it's taken a little while for Riley to grow on me. Back in the Max Hall days, I thought he was just a mediocre backup who they only brought in when Max needed a break and the team needed a good run on 3rd and 8. If you had asked me my opinion on Riley back then, I probably would have said something like, "Meh. He can run the ball really well, but he needs to learn how to throw and he needs a haircut." Sometimes he still needs a haircut (although this video that went viral after the Utah State game last year is hilarious), but his game improved a TON since then. Now he can run, he can throw, and he can be amazing.
So, here are a few of the reasons why I love Riley Nelson:
1. He cares about the little people. He and Cody Hoffman paid a visit to my niece and nephew's elementary school to read stories to the kids a few months ago, and apparently they do that a lot. I think that is so cool that they are willing to spend their time doing things like that. Riley also won the "Floyd Johnson Service Award" at the Y Awards this year. Why was he nominated by Coach Mendenhall? As reported by the Deseret News:
Riley takes much of his free time and devotes it to speaking to youth all over the community. He especially focuses on the blessings of serving a mission. He takes time to make everyone feel important and helps to build confidence in everyone he meets. Riley participates not only in several football team service events but, when called upon to serve at any time, Riley’s response is always,“Count me in.”His acceptance speech at the Y Awards says it all (skip forward to 42:40).
When I go out there, it's not me. The kids don't care. Whoever the next quarterback is . . . it's the position that they respect . . . So I'd encourage all of my fellow athletes to spend as much time [serving] as you can because as thrilling and rewarding as the touchdowns and the wins and the last-second plays are, they fail in comparison to being able to reach out to a young soul or someone who is in our need.
3. He's not Jake Heaps. Maybe that shouldn't influence my opinion of him, but it does. He stepped in and took over when that immature whiner named Jake, who had a ton of potential, stormed off to Kansas with a pouty lip like a Kindergartener who didn't get his way. So now Riley's the new hero, and he's so much better as a team leader. He knows that football isn't everything in life and realizes that everything they accomplish is accomplished as a team. Jake didn't get that-- he thought he should be the center of the universe and that he could accomplish his goals by himself. Look how well that turned out.
This video and this video are all the evidence I need to prove that statement.
5. He's not afraid to take chances. Now, this can be a good thing and a bad thing. My biggest fear going into this football season is that Riley will try to run the ball, take a hard tackle, and puncture a major internal organ 5 minutes into the first game and be sidelined for the rest of the season. However, we wouldn't have won nearly all the games we did last year with him at the helm if he wasn't a risk-taker. He's not afraid to get his hands dirty and throw himself into the action, even if it means he might have to literally "take one for the team."
6. He can flat-out play football. Watch this if you're not convinced.
So, there you have it. Riley rocks. I'm super excited to see what he can accomplish in his senior season this year! Go Cougars!