Co-Eric Riley: Then and Now

Recently named first-team All-American by NJCAA, Co-Eric Riley traces his history as a football player from the first day he set foot on a football field to being selected an All-American at the conclusion of his sophomore season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

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Back when he was a 12-year old, Co-Eric wasn't known as a football player. He was Co-Eric the baseball and basketball player by choice. He didn't even like football, but he decided to give it a shot.

"The first time I played football I was probably in the sixth grade," said Co-Eric. "I started playing ball at the little park called the Grove. I started playing it because everybody in my community of Oak Grove was playing it."

He started out against guys much older than him.

"I started playing with the big boys, sophomores, juniors and seniors," said the youngster.

So, how did he do against guys bigger and stronger than himself?

"I was always small but talented. I was playing way better than they were playing and I was just a sixth grader," said the confident Riley. "My first day of practice, it was like I was out there and everybody else was invisible. I was able to do just about whatever I wanted to do."

Although he now plays wide receiver, that wasn't his first position.

"I played running back when I first started playing. I played running back until my ninth grade year," explained Co-Eric.

Then he started position musical chairs out of necessity.

"I moved to wide receiver my freshman year. My sophomore year they moved me to cornerback," noted Co-Eric. "My junior year I played quarterback. My senior year they moved me to wide receiver because we didn't have anybody to throw the ball to. And I fell in love with it."

However, despite loving wide receiver, that's not his favorite position.

"I loved playing quarterback the most. I just fell in love with quarterback. At quarterback you do whatever you want to do, you call all the shots," said Co-Eric.

Ironically, one of his biggest honors was at quarterback.

"I was a (The Clarion-Ledger) Dandy Dozen quarterback my senior year and I was playing wide receiver," laughed Co-Eric.

While his heart was still with quarterback, he knew early in his senior season where his future was - wide receiver.

"I realized my first game of the season that I was a good wide receiver," said Co-Eric. "I scored two touchdowns against our rival, Greene County. I had 5 receptions for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was too easy, then they started double-covering me the whole year and I was still taking advantage of them."

Although he was brimming with confidence his senior season of high school, his next level of ball, junior college, knocked him back down to earth for a couple of months.

"When I first step into junior college I was lost because George County don't teach their receivers the technique that you need to play on the next level," said the 6-3, 205-pounder. "I couldn't do certain stuff. I wasn't that good of a route runner. I would just run the routes. I was out there playing off talent, so I was lost for a couple of months."

He even got a little homesick.

"When I first got to junior college I felt like I was on an island all by myself. I wanted to come back home because I didn't like it at all," said Co-Eric.

But that didn't last long.

"It lasted until my first game. I didn't get any respect until my first game," said Co-Eric. "Everybody thought I was a big high school hype and that I didn't have it on the next level. My first game I had two touchdowns and something like 178 yards. My last touchdown was on two players."

He commented on the people who helped him adjust to junior college football.

"Tony Burks got me on the right track. He did everything that he could," said Co-Eric. "After practice he showed me all the little things. My junior college coaches also helped me a lot. I give all the thanks to them and my offensive line. They all helped me a lot."

By the end of his freshman season, he couldn't have felt better about himself as a wide receiver.

"I felt like I became a complete wide receiver at the end of my freshman year," acknowledged Co-Eric.

But during his freshman season he had the talented Burks on the opposite side. Not so his sophomore season. And he felt the pressure.

"I didn't feel comfortable this season because there was a lot of pressure on me," said Co-Eric. "This year, there was a lot of pressure because every time we threw the ball everybody knew it was coming to me. My freshman year I felt comfortable because everybody was on Tony Burks."

While there was that inner pressure, there were also several cornerbacks in the Mississippi junior college ranks that made sure he felt the pressure on the field. He talked about the three that impressed him the most.

"(JCJC sophomore) Ellis Lankster is just at the right spot at the right time," said Co-Eric. "He's a good ballplayer and I respect him. The next one I would say is (sophomore) Otis Stamps at Hinds. He was just a physical player. He didn't play soft off me like the other cornerbacks did. He wasn't scared of me. Every chance he got he would hit me, even if I had the ball or not. I respect him a lot for that. (Co-Lin CC sophomore) Jasper O'Quinn was also a physical player. Like the guy from Hinds, every chance he got he would hit you. And he's a good athlete. I would put those three in the same category. But Ellis just stands out more because he could return punts, return kickoffs. Ellis was just the whole package."

Just as Co-Eric is the whole package at wideout. And that's why his recruiting continues to be hot and heavy despite his commitment to Mississippi State.

"Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Mississippi State send me text messages everyday letting me know that they are still thinking about me. Those are my final three," said Co-Eric, who confirmed that, "I'm still committed to Mississippi State, but I haven't made my final decision."

He explained what will be the determining factors behind his decision.

"My decision will be based on playing time, academics and how much the people love me at the school," said Co-Eric.

And one school has definitely made a great impression on him.

"Right now, Mississippi State is leading. They are leading by a long way," said Co-Eric. "They are leading by a long way now, but I haven't gone to Oklahoma State and Tennessee yet. It could change or it may not. But the people at Mississippi State treat me like I'm at home."

At one time they weren't leading by such a wide margin. He explain what led to that doubt and why it now appears to be mostly gone.

"At one time I had doubts about their quarterbacks," said the candid youngster. "If (Michael) Henig got hurt, who was going to come up and throw the ball to me and Tony and all the other receivers? I didn't think they were going to have a number 2 quarterback. Then, when they signed the (juco) kid from California, Josh Riddell, I felt 100% different about things. I knew Henig could get the job done, but I needed to know that the number two quarterback could get the job done, too, if Henig went down."

But he's hopeful Henig will stay healthy next season.

"Henig is an excellent quarterback. I will love playing with him this season coming up," said Co-Eric.

And if things continue as is, he'll get that shot. And he'll have the luxury of having the talented Tony Burks on the opposite side just like he had his freshman season at MGCCC.

No. 15, wide receiver Co-Eric Riley -

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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