The Army Black Knights started off the season 2-1 with their lone loss coming in overtime to the Michigan Wolverines. However, there was one player in particular that contributed significantly to keeping that game so close. Elijah Riley.
The senior cornerback stepped up on the biggest stage. Despite playing at the cornerback position, Riley was all over the field. He had 13 total tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble and recovery.
But this isn’t necessarily an abnormal day for the leader of the Black Knights’ defense. He has three forced fumbles on the year and 7.5 tackles-for-loss. Riley sits only behind inside linebacker Cole Christiansen in total tackles with 63. Again, as a cornerback, this is astounding. He leads the team in sacks with four and the season still isn’t over.
But, is this enough for him to draw the attention of NFL scouts?
I submit to you, yes, it is. One of the reasons why the young man from Port Jefferson, N.Y., will remain on the watch lists on NFL scouts is that he has the size to compete with NFL wide receivers. At 6-foot-0 and 205 pounds, Riley will have a fighting chance against even some of the biggest receivers like Mike Evans or tight ends like Jimmy Graham. Both Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey, two of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, are only 6-foot-1.
And, of course, there is no doubt that Elijah Riley’s experience with rigors academics and high discipline demands of West Point will only set him up for success as a professional athlete. Players like Alejandro Villanueva (Army, 2010), Ben Garland (Air Force, 2010), and Joe Cardona (Navy, 2015) have all been relying on the skills they learned at their individual service academies to continue to have successful careers in the NFL. And, there are others like them.
The last question is whether the military will actually allow Elijah Riley to play in the NFL. This possibility is constantly evolving as presidential administrations change as well as their various cabinet members and advisers. At this very moment, it appears as though the current policy would allow Riley the possibility of playing in the NFL next year. However, as many of us who have served, or have family or friends who have served, know...stand by.
The topic of service academy athletes going directly from commissioning to playing professional sports is a highly debated topic that has legitimate arguments on both sides. Additionally, the political and military landscape changes quite frequently and can play a real role in whether or not an individual Ensign or Second Lieutenant should immediately go serve for five or more years.
Ultimately, any NFL general manager should consider drafting Elijah Riley due to his physicality at the cornerback position and his leadership ability on and off the field.