He was the hire no one saw coming. The announcement of Mike Riley as new head football coach left Husker fans asking, "Who is Mike Riley?”
We sat down with Coach Riley. He opens up about his family, his coaching style and his goals for Nebraska Football.
Game Day in Nebraska. It’s a way of life here, 80,000 fans, hopes and dreams to one day win another national title. Now, a new head coach fans hope will make that happen. But just who is Mike Riley?
“It think people sometimes mistake my personality as being 'soft' because I might be perceived as nice. That’s really a mistake."
Make no mistake…Mike Riley means business. “We're going to do things the right way. The disciplined way."
Football is in his blood. It’s his passion. “It’s been a pretty simple life for me. My dad was a high school teacher and football coach. I was always in the locker room from whenever I can remember. I never really thought there was anything else to do.”
Mike’s father, Bud Riley, has always been the driving force behind his son. "My dad coached under one of the most influential people I was ever around for me, personally. Ad Rutschman. the head coach at Linfield. A great teacher and mentor of young men."
Riley ended up coaching at Linfield, an experience he still carries with him today.
“I was the defensive coordinator and the junior varsity baseball coach. That was my first job where I got a contract and got paid and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven."
Riley’s coaching career has taken him to Canada, the NFL and ended up back in Corvallis at Oregon State. It was a job he repeatedly said he had no plans to leave. After all, he built a program at Oregon State to be proud of. He was the winningest coach in the college’s history.
"Twelve years in, that was kind of hard to do with what we do and we were proud of that and figured we were still on that track until we got this phone call.” A phone call to lead one of the most storied programs in college football history.
But, how would his wife, Dee, of 34 years, feel about it? “I was kind of surprised. She was like, “This is interesting.” And she sounded pretty much all in at least in looking at the job at Nebraska. It was a pretty exciting, event-filled time for us. And we weren’t even together, so we were trying to do a lot of this on the phone.”
Just days after he got the call, Riley was announced as the new Husker head football coach. “I think I've heard the most sincere 'welcome to Nebraska' a million times and I love it. It's not just what they say, it's how they say it."
The attention was immediate, but a lot of people were caught off guard with the announcement.
Malorie Maddox asks, “There’s been this almost laser-like focus on your age since you’ve been hired. Does that bother you?”
“No, and I don’t even…when I say my age I don’t even get it. I don’t even connect 'wow,' that sounds older."
Nonetheless, fans wanted to accept him right away. Riley’s Twitter followers jumped from 26,000 to 90,000!
“The thing that hits you right between the eyes is the passion people have not necessarily for me but for the position and what sports, what football means here in Nebraska."