If that is the case, then Oregon State’s head football coach is the latest evidence on the affirmative side of that statement and not enough fans and media members are giving the man the credit he deserves.
Upon finishing his post-game press conference and doing a few quick individual interviews with reporters, including a mild mannered disagreement with a columnist regarding the management of Steven Jackson’s playing time, a visibly exhausted Mike Riley stopped to shake my hand and say hello. I took the opportunity to ask him one question that no reporter had asked: How do you feel yourself Coach, because you look darn tired?
|This was a handsome 50-year-old man who’d been through a very trying week at work on many different levels, and whether he was trying to hide it or not, it showed. Yet here he was still smiling politely, still with that loveable personality and kindness towards people he’d never met, and still answering every question.|
“You know I am, I really am,” Riley answered as he put his hands on his hips and let out a deep breath. “I always am after games though,” he continued as I examined the significant bags beneath his bloodshot eyes. He may usually be tired, but something in his eyes and his body language told me that this was different.
This was a handsome 50-year-old man who’d been through a very trying week at work on many different levels, and whether he was trying to hide it or not, it showed. Yet here he was still smiling politely, still with that loveable personality and kindness towards people he’d never met, and still answering every question posed to him even as he was trying to get to his all-world tailback to find out how bad the injury to the left knee was. This is a left knee that could be the difference between a four-win season and a 10-win season, the left knee that if healthy could help to bring Heisman publicity to the tailback and national recognition to Coach Riley’s program.
Here was Mike Riley, still showing tremendous amounts of respect to the reporters who had been questioning his coaching, his ability to continue the recent success of Beaver football, and his quarterback, all week long.
Riley entered the interview room on the second floor of the Valley Football Center and swiftly broke the tension with a“Hello, how you doing?” as he strode across the room to meet the gaggle of reporters. He answered his own question with the look of a parent whose teenager had yet to report home on a Saturday night and said, “I’m okay, I think.”
“Okay, anybody want to know anything?” he deadpanned with a satirical grin and flash of his eyes knowing full well the horde really only wanted to know how drastically all of their story leads had just changed, depending on Jackson’s status.
The ability to play the room as he did speaks volumes of Coach Riley’s character and resolve, two qualities that undoubtedly rubbed off on his young, impressionable student-athletes over the course of the week. His team was tested off the field during the week and then on it after falling behind 13-0 to an opponent from a lesser conference, and who was supposed to be about as formidable as midget pillow fighting.
“It was a horrible start.” Riley began. “It was a really horrible start especially coming off of how we played a week ago. So it was like, it was, you know, almost here we go again, and it could have been. But the difference was I thought our reaction to it was good. I thought we just kept playing and you know we weren’t going to get it all back real fast against this team. But when we faced adversity a week ago, we lost our discipline. I thought we just kind of kept playing this time and got back into it.”
|Mike Riley is a winner. The Beaver football team’s win column will continue to be filled out with numbers approaching and perhaps surpassing the number 10, season after season over what Riley says will be a long tenure in Corvallis.|
The Oregon State team as a whole seemed to take the adversity and criticism that was shot their way this week much as their head coach did, especially much maligned starting quarterback Derek Anderson.
“That’s a microcosm of what happened to the whole team,” Riley said. “I thought our team was great with Derek this week as far as (being) supportive. I thought (Derek) worked very hard and I thought he performed pretty well today.”
Mike Riley is a winner. The Beaver football team’s win column will continue to be filled out with numbers approaching and perhaps surpassing the number 10, season after season over what Riley says will be a long tenure in Corvallis. And, the successes enjoyed during those seasons will be as much because of the ability to overcome adversarial conditions with strong character and moxie as with making plays during games.
Beaver Nation should be thankful to have a man of Riley’s stature, especially considering that the panic button had been pushed, and pushed several times, when Dennis Erickson left to return to the NFL in February. While his 10-15 record at OSU is not stellar, remember that past performances are not an indicator of future results and should be given no more attention than the “slump-buster” that you had a run-in with before you met your beautiful significant other.
So when Beaver fans start to overreact to a bad loss or few shaky games, and start calling for heads to roll, they should consider that there aren’t many men, let alone coaches out there like the Beavers’ Mike Riley. Beaver Nation should be grateful to have him as their leader, and tell him so, because he deserves it and because just maybe it’ll help him sleep a little better.
Brad A. Banning covers the football team for the Barometer and will be helping out at BeaverFootball.com. The views expressed in his column are not necessarily those of BeaverFootball.com. Banning can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.