"You can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need." – The Rolling Stones.
Zeke Riser was born in Indianapolis, Ind., and, like most children born in the Hoosier state, basketball was in his blood. Unfortunately for Riser, nature was not on his side.
"Honestly, growing up I always thought I was going to play basketball," Riser said.
"I am only 6-4, which is not really big enough for basketball, and I definitely have the body type for football."
When he was 10, Riser and his family moved from the hoops capital of the country to the land of pigskin, in La Vernia, Texas. Surrounded by the fertile football fields of Texas, Riser surrendered to the sport.
You can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you just might find,
you get what you need."
Zeke Riser is exactly what Maryland needs.
The Terps lost six returning starters from last year's defense, including the two cornerstones of their defensive line, Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis. Maryland's line took another hit when Justin Anderson announced his decision to transfer last spring. The Terps needed experience, leadership, heck…a body.
"You can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need."
A 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end, who started 27 games at Houston? Yeah, that will do.
After graduating in December, Riser asked for his release from the University of Houston so he could transfer for his final year of eligibility (Riser tore his ACL and red-shirted his sophomore year, giving him an extra year of eligibility). The 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end was, "dead set on the University of Texas," where he planned to walk on to the team.
However, Riser said about a month ago the Longhorns' staff stopped talking to him, and the fifth-year senior started exploring his options.
Around the same time, Riser's sister moved to Annapolis with her husband, who is a Marine, was transferred to the Naval Academy. With family in Maryland, Riser reconnected with his former coach, Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart.
"We [Coach Stewart and I] got in contact once I got released and throughout the whole process -- even when I was dead set on going to Texas -- we kept in touch," Riser said. "It wasn't until about a month ago that I really decided Maryland was a legitimate option, especially because my sister is out there now."
Still, it wasn't a done deal.
"I have never been to Maryland in my life and I only spent about 36 hours there during my visit," said Riser, who made the quick trip out to College Park on June 18. "When I got there the weather was really nice and the campus was beautiful, all of the people I met were really nice. Everyone was really welcoming and seemed excited about the future of Maryland athletics."
Riser had a jammed packed trip. His agenda included a tour of: the facilities, the campus and a meeting with academic advisors.
"I got to meet with the director of the real estate development program. which is not even close to what I studied at Houston," said Riser, who got his undergraduate degree in kinesiology and sports administration. "Once I met with the program director, it felt like a good fit for me. It was really interesting because I had absolutely no expectations to do anything with real estate. My only experience is that my dad is a property manager."
Following his tour, Riser got a chance to sit down for an in-depth conversation with head coach Randy Edsall.
"At that point I wasn't committed so we talked about what my role would be if I did go there. He did a really great job of describing the opportunities that I would have," Riser said. "That is what really caught my eye with Maryland. They didn't promise me anything, but they just presented me with really great opportunities. "
Riser would love to enjoy a successful NFL career, however, he is beginning to realize that may not be in the cards, and he wants to make sure he is ready for whatever the future might hold.
"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need."
And that is exactly why Riser felt like Maryland is the perfect fit.
"I will probably end up getting a job after college, just like the rest of America. Maryland sold me right away with their resources, networking and dealing with life after football. Just things of that nature," Riser said. "They just kept describing all the opportunities that Maryland and Maryland football had to offer, so it was just a situation I didn't feel that I could pass up."
The fact that Riser has already played in Stewart's defense doesn't hurt the situation either. Even more importantly is the leadership Riser can provide on the line.
"Every coach, Stewart, [Greg] Gattuso and Edsall, they all talked about me filling that leadership role, and that is the role I want to fill regardless of what happens playing time wise or anything like that," Riser said. "I have plenty of experience playing the game, so I would like to think of myself as an extension of the coaches on the field.
"If anyone has a question or whatever they need, I want to be able to help out. I told Coach Edsall, I never want to worry about me being in the right spot or missing an assignment or anything like that."
Of course playing time also factored in to Riser's decision. However, he does not expect anything to be handed to him.
"There is an opportunity to play and to play a lot," Riser said. "They have some inexperienced guys especially on the line, but again they aren't going to promise me a starting spot, and I didn't want them to because I want to come in and earn my spot just like everyone else."
Riser added: "I am definitely looking for playing time and hopefully looking to start, but there is no telling what is going to happen during fall camp. I am just going to do my best and earn whatever time I can get. "
Riser started every game his freshman season at Houston. However, he admits to relying too much on his athleticism and not enough of technique. Riser tore his ACL during spring ball and missed his sophomore year as he continued to rehab his knee.
"When I came back for my red-shirt sophomore year I was still getting used to playing on my knee surgically repaired knee, so I definitely did not have the year I was expecting," Riser said.
I think my injury forced me to focus a lot more on my technique. If I had not gotten injured I don't know if I would have taken that kind of time on it," Riser said.
"I have definitely matured and picked up tricks of the game."
Leadership-wise, Riser has learned a lot from his time at Houston. Just two years ago the Cougars went 14-1 and were ranked as high as No. 6 in the FBS. Then Houston went from a Cinderella season to losing their head coach and a mediocre 5-7 finish.
"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need."
"I have been on really good teams and I have been on not-so-good teams," Riser said. I have been in just about every situation that a college football player could probably be in, both good and bad. It has definitely been a journey, but it just adds to the experience."
The next chapter of Riser's journey might be his last, but he plans to enjoy the ride.
"I am super excited, I have never really been anywhere close to Maryland so I am excited to be in a new area and be around a new team," Riser said. "I know there is a plan for me and I am ready to take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented to me and send my career off the right way."
However, Riser is a bit more skeptical about the opportunity to expand his diet.
"I definitely need to get a feel for the whole seafood thing -- I know crab cakes and football, that what Maryland does -- so I have to try it," Riser said. "At some point, I am really going to need to find some good Mexican food and some good country music."
And don't worry, when he does find the country music, Riser will have the perfect attire.
"I just got a pair of ostrich cowboy boots," Riser said. "Those are up there, not a lot of people will be wearing those in Maryland."
He might not be a college basketball player, a member of Texas' football team, and Maryland might not have the best Mexican food, but it sounds like that just might be exactly what Zeke Riser needs.
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