Outside Salt Lake City, former Notre Dame running backs coach Tony Alford, now at Ohio State, will stage the second G.O.A.T Camp to honor his late brother Aaron, who died of a heart attack two years ago in August. T.J. Jones, also with the Lions, will join Riddick on that flight to work the camp.
“It’s a father-son relationship,” Riddick said of Alford after Lions minicamp. “He was always there for me. In the classroom, if I wasn’t doing well in a subject he would get on my tail. To put it in his words, he would climb my tree.”
Now entering his third year in the NFL, Riddick doesn’t have another Alford personality in his ear. With something resembling roots in Michigan, maybe he doesn’t need it.
The past two years in Detroit have been a blur for Riddick. A late sixth-round pick after being Notre Dame’s workhorse back during the BCS National Championship run, Riddick was a bit player as a rookie. Then he developed into a receiving threat last season, posting 34 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns.
Riddick took some first-team work on Wednesday, rotating with second-round pick Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska with starter Joique Bell sidelined by injury. Starter reps meant working in the same formations as Golden Tate. Running with the second-team meant working with Jones. The Lions also have Braxston Cave and Kyle Brindza on their summer rosters.
Riddick’s locker is next to Cave, who signed with Detroit in January.
The collegiate familiarity has put Riddick at ease, even within the NFL’s churning business model.
“It’s kind of slowed things down for me,” Riddick said. “You have so much anxiousness and anxiety when you first get out here. It’s like going to college for the first time. What do you expect?
“Obviously having Golden here and guys who have been in the league a few years, you get to talk to them. You get to pick their brains.”
Riddick returned to South Bend for the Blue-Gold Game two months ago, remixing with running backs he helped recruit – Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant – and watching one who was a scout team safety during his senior year – C.J. Prosise. Riddick saw a program both the same and different from the one he left as the Irish hunt for the College Football Playoff.
“Everyone is trying to get back to where we were our senior year,” Riddick said.
In a way, Riddick will next week when he flies to Utah to support Alford, who’s called the former Irish back the favorite player he coached in South Bend.
Alford coached a freshman Riddick at running back in Charlie Weis’ final season. Alford then coached receivers the next two seasons under Brian Kelly when Riddick shifted to slot. When Riddick returned to running back for his senior year, Alford did too.
“Mind blowing,” Riddick said. “I learned some things, actually a lot of things, playing receiver for those two years that obviously helped in the passing game. But also being a running back my whole life, those instincts never go away.”
When the Lions selected Riddick at No. 199 overall, he watched the pick on his large screen Vizio, stopped it, rewound it, then watched it again. Just to be sure. As much as Alford prepared Riddick to make it at the next level, Riddick is still struck by the fact he actually has.
“To say that it’s a dream come true would kind of be an understatement,” Riddick said. “You kind of dream about it all the time, especially as a little kid. You kind of view yourself as kind of being crazy because when you look at it statistically, they say only one percent makes it.
“It’s definitely a dream come true.”