Season Wrap-Up: Travis Riley

Travis Riley's senior season had its share of ups and downs.

"The season didn't start off too well," Riley said. "I had an injury in the opener. After the injury, it was pretty successful. But it didn't really end like I wanted it to."

During Kannapolis (N.C.) Brown's season opener, Riley tore the MCL and the PCL and fractured the tibia in his right leg. The 5-foot-11, 208-pound tailback returned to the lineup ahead of schedule nine weeks later, albeit not 100-percent.

"I had to play with a brace on, so it was hard for me to play like my old self," Riley said. "[The brace] kind of hindered my running style a little bit. And I had people going for my knees, so it kind of limited some of the things I could do as far as sometimes I just had to know when to quit."

In six games of action, Riley rushed for 490 yards and five touchdowns on 89 carries. That was after putting up 1,924 yards and 32 touchdowns on 217 rushes as a junior.

"My junior year, I got the ball 20-something times a game," Riley said. "This year, I think my highest was 19 carries [after the injury]. I got the ball more than I expected when I came back from the injury. But it wasn't as much if I hadn't gotten hurt."

Brown went 12-2 and reached the Sectional Round (quarterfinals) of the NCHSAA 3AA playoffs. The Wonders were knocked out of the playoffs by Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic, 45-7.

"[Charlotte Catholic] was just a well coached team," Brown said. "They had great players. They were just all-around a better team than we were. I thought we played well, but they were just better."

Riley has one last high school game left – the Shrine Bowl on Dec. 18. When the North Carolina roster was originally announced, among the glaring omissions was Riley's name.

"When the original roster came out, the guy called my school and said I was their top pick at running back, but the injury happened," Riley said. "It's understandable – I didn't play all year. I probably wouldn't have selected me either."

The morning of Brown's first round playoff game, Riley was informed that he would be added to the Shrine Bowl roster.

"From what I hear, somebody backed out and they decided to take me," Riley said.

"It's an honor [to be selected]. It's a prestigious game. A lot of great players from A.L. Brown, and North Carolina and South Carolina in general have played in this game. So it meant a lot to me."

Riley has been resting his knee in hopes to have it as close to 100-percent as possible for the game.

"I've been working out, but I'm not really running a whole lot on my knee," Riley said. "It's undecided if I'm going to have to wear the brace or not."

Injury or not, Riley has attended all but one UNC home game this fall and even was in Atlanta for the season opener against LSU. The week of the Clemson game a teammate of Riley's was killed in a car accident and the funeral was held that Saturday.

For the weekend of the Virginia Tech game, Riley, who will enroll at UNC in January, took his official visit.

"On the official, we got to tour the campus, which I did before but not on a football visit," Riley said. "And I got to know a little bit more about the academic side of things."

Riley also got to spend significant amount of time with several UNC players, including Jonathan Cooper, James Hurst, and Grant Schallock.

"I saw the life of Chapel Hill – what you don't see by just going to a football game," Riley said. "We just hung out where they stay and then on Franklin Street to see the social life."

Much of the following Sunday was spent in various football and academic meetings, including one with Ken Browning, UNC's running backs coach.

"[Browning] just reiterated to me how important it was to be able to block and catch coming out of the backfield at the college level, more so than on the high school level," Riley said. "… He said running comes natural for a lot of people, but blocking and catching doesn't. So he told me to work on that."

Before ending his official visit, Riley and his mother, who accompanied him on the trip, met with Butch Davis.

"[Davis] just pretty much told me that he's really glad that I committed and he was looking forward to having me down there," Riley said.

Browning and Davis both briefly touched on how they plan on utilizing Riley.

"I'm kind of like the all-around guy," Riley said. "I'm not the fastest guy but I'm not the biggest guy, so I can kind of do it all."

Everything is in order for Riley's early enrollment.

"My application is done, everything is done," Riley said. "I just have to finish everything in high school."

Riley will graduate from Brown on Dec. 22 and move into his UNC dorm on Jan. 8. The first day of spring semester classes is Jan. 10.

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