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NFL Draft

Riley Cole: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • April 13, 2021
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In order to stick in the NFL, some players have to be willing to do whatever it takes. One prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft class who is used to working his way up the football ladder the hard way: Former South Alabama linebacker Riley Cole.

Cole spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his Alabama roots, the impression that he left on scouts at this year’s Senior Bowl, his best fit at the next level, and why an NFL team should take a chance on him in this year’s draft.

JM: You’re extremely proud to have played your college football at South Alabama. You’re a local guy. You play the game with a ton of passion. How do you look back on your time there?

RC: I made sure that I cherished every single moment I had at South Alabama. My time there built me into the player and person I am today. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about South Alabama. I don’t regret anything that I went through there. It was one big wonderful learning experience. South Alabama developed me into who I am today. I’m very thankful to them for that.

JM: You were born in the state of Alabama. It must have meant a lot to you to play so close to home. I bet you had a lot of supporters in the crowd every weekend.

RC: That was one of the main reasons why I chose South Alabama. I wanted to stay in the state of Alabama so that my family could come to every single game, which they did. It meant so much to me.

JM: You went down to the Senior Bowl back in January. I thought you had a great week. What do you think you proved to NFL scouts in Mobile, Alabama?

RC: I proved that I can play with anybody. I know that people consider me to be a small school guy. I went to the Senior Bowl and proved that I could handle the jump in competition. It wasn’t a problem for me. That was my goal, and I feel like I definitely achieved that.

JM: That was huge for you. I think you definitely proved that out there. I imagine teams are bringing up the “small school” topic during your Zoom meetings. How do you respond to that?

RC: I showcased my ability. I feel like I’m a very dominant player. I play the game physically. I actually haven’t really been asked that by many NFL teams. I think they’re comfortable with my tape. They know I’m a physical linebacker. I always put my traits on display at South Alabama.

JM: That’s great to hear. When I turn the tape on, one of the first things I noticed is how great of a tackler you are. You’re coming off a season in which you totaled 96 tackles. How did you develop that aspect of your game?

RC: I think tackling is all about your mentality. I tried to tell everybody on my team that you’re not going to make a tackle unless you really want it. You gotta want to make a tackle. You can preach form all day long, but if you don’t truly want to make a tackle, you’re not going to.

JM: That’s a great point. A lot of people see you playing as a SAM linebacker at the next level. You did a lot of your best work while playing on the edge. Would you agree with that assessment?

RC: I definitely see myself playing there. I’ve received a lot of feedback from NFL teams that agree with that. They’re kind of saying the same thing about me. I’m all for it. At this point, I’ll play anywhere (laughs). Offense, defense, special teams, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care. I just wanna get on the field.

JM: I love that. If you could pick the brain of any linebacker in today’s game, who would you choose and why?

RC: I’d probably go with Fred Warner. He’s really stepped up his game over the past two years. I would love to pick his brain and understand how he developed so much. He’s obviously put in a lot of work.

JM: Do you try to model your game after anybody from the past?

RC: I would say Brian Urlacher. I was a huge fan of his growing up. He was the No. 1 guy I enjoyed watching. I wanted to be like him. I don’t really model my game after anybody though. I like watching a bunch of different people on film. I take notes on several linebackers. Brian Urlacher is the guy I really looked up to as a little kid.

JM: That’s a great choice. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, why should an NFL team use one of their draft picks on Riley Cole?

RC: I’m a hard-working individual. I’m not gonna cause any problems. I’m a great guy to have in the locker room. I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team be successful.

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