LAKELAND – After undergoing surgery on a labrum tear in his shoulder in February, Aaron Riley hung tough and hoped for the best. The soon to be graduate of Victory Christian Academy got the call from Southeastern shortly thereafter, earning a spot on their roster.
The 6’2″, 200-pounder is excited to stay in his hometown and figured that he’d give back to them by trying to help any way he can. After generating interest from Division-I programs Florida Atlantic, Massachusets, Stetson and various Division-III and NAIA programs, Riley ultimately chose Southeastern.
In their third season employing a football program, the Fire have gone 13-5 from 2014-15, playing in the NAIA’s Sun Conference. Riley is excited for the task ahead. He will focus on his position at linebacker while also contributing also as a long snapper at Southeastern. Being a linebacker is something he truly loves.
“I take pride in playing linebacker,” Riley said. “It’s definitely one of the hardest positions in the field. You are the quarterback of the defense and have to make sure everyone is on the same page as you are. I played it in every division of football growing up.”
Originally a part of the Lake Gibson football team in 6A from 2012-14, Riley transferred to Victory Christian, 2A last January because he felt that needed a change of atmosphere. He says he learned a ton from the Lake Gibson coaching staff as they told his team to stick to the motto “never give up no matter what.”
At Victory Christian, coaches taught him to always put God first. Riley says that is something he never had in a public school environment.
“They taught me to love God and love my teammates in a better more positive way. The practices were a lot laid back from what I was used to, but we were more getting focused mentally then beating the crap out of each other. We always wanted to make sure that we were the most prepared on the field at all times.”
When it comes to strengths, Riley prides himself on not being scared of anyone whether it is on the field or in the weight room.
“My brother is a 6’10” giant and I’ve dealt with him all my life. He has helped me with the physical part of my game. I’m not scared to hit and I’m definitely not scared of competition because hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work.”
At the age of five, Riley first hit the football field. He played youth football ever since then. Doubling as a baseball player, he says he had a tough time choosing between baseball and football, but the more he played football, the more he loved it.
Living in a rough home growing up, Riley gained the confidence he has today from his childhood. He says it not only helped him on the football field, but it helped him grow as a person and to believe in himself.
His mother is his biggest role model, a person he says he’s always looked up to.
“She’s a hard working women, who has worked two jobs most of her life and still finds family time to spend with me, my brother and his family. She is the only one in our family to ever earn a master’s degree. One day, I want to do the same thing as her. She has pushed me to do things I never thought was possible and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I love her to death and I can’t wait to one day retire her.”
Riley says playing for fourth-year Victory Christian head coach Tommy Lewis is like playing for a loving and caring dad. Lewis has helped the Storm go 31-10 over the last three seasons as they captured a 2A state title in 2014 and finished as the state runner-up in 2013.
“He takes care of all his players and makes sure everyone is having a good day. I never met an offensive guru like him. He knows what plays to call and is constantly making up trick plays to fit around his players. He only wants the best for you and he will go out of his way to help you as long as you do your part.”
When Riley steps foot onto the field whether for a game, practice or a simple throwing session, he always wants to be sharp. Playing baseball at Victory Christian is something he says helped him a ton heading into spring football.
He totaled 104 tackles (47 solo), three sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and three pass breakups as a senior. Right now, he’s working on improving his overall speed and quickness with his hands. Riley just wants to put his body in the right position to make a play.
His ultimate goal is to to be the best player he can ever be and always make people remember him in that manner. However, he wants to use football as a platform by gaining as much knowledge and connections as he possibly can.
“I want to make really good friends so I can have a lot of connections out of college. I want to be a sports agent one day and I know having a lot of connections definitely helps. Not only that but also being the best student I can be.”
Riley heads off to college after proving his worth in a big way as a linebacker, tight end and long snapper at Victory Christian. He’ll take his experiences and hard work with him to the next level at Southeastern.
He has one piece advice to the players that come after him.
“Work hard and never give up on your dream. Keep God first and always be a helping hand no matter what it is. If you want it as bad as you want to breathe then you will be successful. Work hard everyday and don’t let anyone outwork you. Most importantly stay focused and stay out of trouble.”
Riley is a smart kid who we’ll be rooting for most certainly as he transitions to collegiate football.
Favorite player to watch – former NFL star linebacker Ray Lewis and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David
Playlist before games – Ray Lewis’ motivational speeches
Favorite movies – Pursuit of Happiness, Ride Along and Ride Along 2
Fun fact about you, no one knows – “I am a model and actor. I shock people every time I say it.”
Nickname from teammates or friends – “Hollywood” and “A-Aron”
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.