Mike Riley
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Mike Riley, College Football’s ‘Sneaky’ Cool Head Coach

August 25, 2017

The cat’s out of the bag. Mike Riley is a cool coach.

“Who is the coolest college football coach there is right now?” CBS Sports’ Jim Rome asked on his radio show on Tuesday. “There really is not a dude out there who is cooler than Mike Riley.”

Rome’s comments came after a weekend in which Riley gave his entire team tickets to the Kendrick Lamar concert in downtown Lincoln followed by a day off from practice. And this isn’t the first time the third-year Nebraska man has been all about the culture. For the longest time, Riley’s pinned tweet has been a picture of him dabbing it up with rap star Chance the Rapper. After Riley met Lamar backstage before the concert last Friday, he got another picture and captioned it with a Lamar lyric.

“He’s a real cool guy,” said sophomore cornerback Eric Lee Jr. Lee added that Riley is like that with his team often, but behind the scenes. Riley has started listening to more Lamar music, too.

Junior linebacker Dedrick Young II just laughed when asked if Riley was now the cool coach. “I don’t know,” he said. “He’s a great coach.”

Even though now the whole college football world seems to have taken notice of Riley, he wants to keep things under wraps.

“It’s very sneaky, that’s all I’m going to say, sneaky,” he said with a grin. “Next question, now you’re making me uncomfortable.”

Riley’s social media game – whether that’s him running his account or a separate team is a question for another day – is the main draw, but Lee said Riley is cool in other ways, too.

“He be having all the new Adidas shoes,” Lee said. “I think he came out with some Yeezy Boosts one time and I was like, I don’t even think he knows how much those are worth.”

I think he came out with some Yeezy Boosts one time and I was like, I don’t even think he knows how much those are worth.
– CB Eric Lee Jr.

During his radio segment, Rome said that “hip and in touch does not begin to do Mike Riley justice.” And he’s right. Riley, whether he listens to the Billboard Top 100 on his way to work every morning and keeps up with the latest sneaker drops or is just open enough to new ideas about how to build team chemistry and connect with his players, seems to be the kind of coach that guys just want to play for.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why Nebraska’s recruiting classes have improved in terms of final rankings every season since Riley got on campus in 2015. And Hail Varsity’s own Greg Smith sees that trend continuing into next season. With Riley, it’s not a show and recruits see that.

“He's a man of morals and principles,” Brendan Radley-Hiles‍, a Nebraska commit and one of the top cornerback prospects in the country for next year’s class, said of Riley. “When his guys, in which he cares a tremendous amount for, put in the work and deserve praise, he has no problem with saying or showing his appreciation towards them.

“He simply values being a genuine, caring human being more than just a head ball coach. It's what separates him.”

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