Virginia Tech's spring game commitment roll continued this past weekend as the Hokies landed a pledge on Saturday. The latest addition announced his selection by deciding to go public with the news earlier this evening.
"I actually was talking to my recruiting coach, Coach Sherman and you know I'm very comfortable talking with him because we've established that type of relationship where I can tell him how I feel in certain situations. In response he can tell me the actual situation he'll bring to me and in talking to him I ended our phone call by telling him I'll call you back," Baltimore (Md.) Baltimore Poly defensive back Donovan Riley said. "In turn, I called Coach Gray and talked to him. I just thanked him for taking the time at the spring game going over film of the defensive backs and what they do at Virginia Tech that really meant a lot to me.
"After talking to him, then I turned to my dad and said, 'I got that feeling that we had discussed, that feeling it's a good fit feeling, a champion feeling.' My dad turned to me and said, 'Well, if you have a feeling, it's one in which you can trust, it's time for you to step up and be a man and make a decision.'
"So, I called Coach Sherman and talked to him for a few minutes about Virginia Tech, especially about the academic program and how I was really feeling the academic program, the academic coordinators there, the support and the students. Then, we talked about the football program and how it's a championship program and how it's a family type of program.
"I told him I was impressed with the spring game and 40,000 fans showing up for the spring game. I shared with him again how I really was feeling Virginia Tech, academically and athletically and that it was a championship feel all the way around and told him that's what I want to be part of for the next part of my life."
Even though it was over the phone, it was obvious to Riley that Sherman was excited.
"He paused and you know, I could hear his voice, a feeling of excitement and happiness," he said. "He said Virginia Tech would be proud and happy to have me help them win a national championship. He said that Virginia Tech is looking for a kid like myself who is a ball player and how is a student as well. He mentioned I bring a lot to the table with my character alone, not just my athletic ability and that I'm a winner on the field and off. He was proud to have me there as a member of the Virginia Tech Hokie family. Before he hung up, he told me to remember two words that he always said at the end of our conversation, 'Virginia Tech.'"
A lot went into Riley's selection for the Hokies and he broke that down fully.
"Actually, I'd been thinking about a decision at the Virginia Tech spring game," he said. "During the week I had an opportunity to speak with former players, students and some parents whose kids actually attended and graduated from Virginia Tech. They informed me it was a great academically sound school. They also informed me of the quality of life at the campus and that the disaster happened years ago and they assured me of the security on campus. They mentioned that it's the type of climate that is conducive to a college atmosphere, a family type of atmosphere."
Not to be overlooked in the process was the fact Virginia Tech was the first school to extend a scholarship to Riley.
"I went down to the Army All-American combine and maybe a month after that a month and a half after, Virginia Tech contacted me and I called Coach Sherman and he plainly introduced himself and said he saw me on film and contacted my head coach," he said. "He asked me how was I as a student and then he simply offered me an opportunity to play football at Virginia Tech with a verbal offer.
"That meant a lot to me because I worked very hard over the years to put myself in position to be noticed, recognized for the hard work and Virginia Tech stepped up and pulled the trigger. That meant so much to me. It was ironic, a former student from Baltimore Poly, Antonio Freeman had gone to Virginia Tech and went on to have a successful career in the NFL and I had received the Antonio Freeman award at my high school."
Following the offer, Riley did what he could to learn more about the Hokies.
"I reached out to him (Antonio Freeman) to find out how Virginia Tech football is along with current players, former players and parents of former players," he said. "I got an overwhelmingly good response from everyone.
"Then, I went down to visit on an unofficial visit and I felt good about my visit. I was looking forward to going back for the spring game and during the interim I did more research online and found out more facts about Virginia Tech's academic program and Virginia Tech in the community. I found that it was very conducive to the environment I'd want to learn in and play athletically."
Riley touched largely on academics, but football sold him too.
"The football aspect speaks for itself, it's a winning program and you see the stadium when you get to campus and see the athletic buildings, when you get in there you can't help but see the hall of fame room and it shows a tradition of champions, what champions are made of and what it takes to build a champion," he said. "I felt the spirit in the air and who wouldn't want to be part of that.
"I've always been a champion as long as I can remember during my entire life. I've always won and even in defeat I felt like a champion, this is nothing but extending that feeling and wanting to be part of it. I feel like I've got a lot to bring and feel Virginia Tech can offer a lot too."
How much did Virginia Tech's tradition of producing defensive backs play into it?
"First of all the players that put on a uniform for Virginia Tech and those who are truly blessed enough to go onto the league, I have nothing but a great deal of respect for those guys," he said. "Hopefully I'll be able to meet them and pick up a few tips from those guys someday.
"I do know Coach Gray played in the league and learning from him will be a tremendous, tremendous attribute to me to developing down at Virginia Tech as a defensive back.
"Him just taking the time to show me the techniques they use to win ball games there at Virginia Tech shows me how much of a passion he has for his position as a defensive back coach, how much knowledge he has, how much time and how serious he is in developing defensive backs. I enjoyed spending time with him and look forward to that aspect in the future."
It wasn't just Gray's role though that was a factor, his recruiter, Kevin Sherman was critical as well.
"I was taught there are some people that you just feel comfortable with, some good people and bad people out there, you just get a good feeling when you meet someone and they represent where you come from, the morals and values, the standards that are instilled in you," he said. "As soon as I met Coach Sherman, I could feel that vibe of morals and values instilled in me over the years in my development since my adolescence. That allowed me to draw close and be comfortable with him."
It can't go without noting the relationship Riley developed with his future head coach, Frank Beamer.
"As I said before, when I first met him and shook his hand all I felt was a championship vibe through the handshake," he said. "I got an opportunity to talk to him during the spring game, I went to his office, sat down and talked and he said he wanted me on board, he wanted me to join the Hokie family and that I can contribute to the success they've already had. I listened and took in what he said; I put it in my memory bank and had an opportunity to process it. I told my parents and they told me to trust my judgment and that allowed me to take that feeling and place it in a category with other feelings I had about Virginia Tech which helped me with my decision."
With all that said, has Virginia Tech clarified what position he'll play upon his arrival in Blacksburg?
"I'm more or less a tweener, like I said I'm a playmaker and I could play corner, I could play safety and that's where my training has lied."
Finally, Riley wanted to thank a number of those who have helped him to today by saying.
"I want to give thanks to Cover One Positive Choices, TZ Sports and give thanks to some people," he said. "I want to give thanks to the Riesterstown Youth Football League, Pikesville Youth Football League, Next Level Nation, nutritionist ☺, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute along with my administrators, teachers, students, my teammates and coaches. I want to give special thanks to my parents, family and friends for all the support in which they have given me and helped me to this point and of course last but not least I've got to thank God."
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