With draft ongoing, Riley faces a waiting game

Published 10:00am Friday, April 26, 2013

For the first time in Kejuan Riley’s young life the future is out of his control.


“At first it was like I was dreaming, just to be in this position,” said Riley, a defensive standout at Alabama State. “But I just have to keep thanking God for this opportunity.”


The waiting game began Thursday and will carry on today and Saturday as the former Wetumpka High Indian waits for his name to be called as a selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.


“People have talked to me about the late rounds,” said Riley. “I don’t care when I go. I just want to get a shot and a chance to prove to everyone that I belong and can play at the next level. There’s a lot of planning and hoping to get to this point. But now all you can really do is sit back and wait.”


Riley is a two-time SBN All-American safety and was also named an All-American by the Sports Network, American Football Coaches Association, Boxtorow.com and College Sporting News.


He earned an invitation and competed in the East-West Shrine Game.


Riley completed his Hornets career leading in both interceptions (21) and interception return yards (348).


“He became a client of ours right after the season ended,” said Blake Baratz, president of The Institute for Athletes. “A mutual contact referred him to us and after we got to know him, and did some digging into his background. We saw that he was a good football player and a good person. Regardless of where he ends up draftwise, he’s going to end up on somebody’s roster.”


Baratz and the Institute, located in the heart of the Big 10, are no strangers to the plight of football players outside the “Power Conference.”


“Ruvell Martin played at Saginaw Valley and Dan Skuta from Grand Valley State have gone on to have careers in the NFL, those are just two examples of guys from small schools,” said Baratz. “We handle guys from the ‘Power Conferences’ that don’t get drafted.”


The question mark staring Riley in the face hasn’t deterred him from busting tail in preparation.


“I went to PEP (Performance Enhancement Professionals) in Arizona and have been training,” said Riley. “It’s a chance for me to get bigger, faster, stronger. I’ve met some of the NFL players down here and that’s encouraged me to want to learn the game more so I can be the best I can be on the field when my time comes.”


Riley is but one of a group of football players waiting to have that moment over the weekend.


“If I don’t get my name called, I’ll get some type of shot as a free agent,” said Riley.


The reality of not having that moment is something Baratz and his staff has prepared Riley for going forward from this weekend.


“He’s got to understand that he’s in control of what he can control. This is something he can’t control,” said Baratz. “Whether he’s a late round pick or a free agent, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to go to that team and compete for a job.  All this is, really, is a starting point. It’s a way to get your foot in the door.”


Baratz and the Institute have 10 clients in the 2013 draft. He knows not all of them are going to get drafted.


“We are trying to shoot these guys 100 percent straight about the reality of their situations. You aren’t doing anyone a favor telling them what they want to hear. We have seventh-round picks and undrafted guys all over the league.”


Some of which are Dezmon Moses (an undrafted free agent currently on the Green Bay roster), Jake Ballard (an undrafted free agent currently on the New York Giants roster) and Skuta (an undrafted free agent currently on the Cincinnati roster).


“I know the draft is a lot of years of work built up to this one weekend, but it doesn’t make a difference,” said Baratz. “We want to see him get an opportunity. Once that happens, he’s got to get in the playbook and learn from the veterans. He’ll have his opportunities  from OTA (organized team activities) and training camps.


“Now, Kejuan is going to have to go in and work his tail off because the odds are stacked against you no matter where you were drafted. If you are signed, you have no leeway to not get better.”


Riley knows he’s facing an uphill battle while the new chapter in his life is being written. He brings a dogged determination with him that was born in the heat of Alabama Augusts.


“I know at the next level,  they aren’t really going to respect me,” said Riley. “I hope they throw it to my side. I want to have my time to shine. I want to have a chance to make plays.”


Until that time comes, Riley is going to enjoy the moment.


“I’m going to hang out with my family, laugh and just have a good time,” he said.


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