Coach Riley Pleased with Initial Roster for Start of Training Camp
By Cole Thompson, San Antonio Commanders Team Reporter
SAN ANTONIO – As players and coaches begin to arrive in San Antonio for the start of the Alliance’s training camp, San Antonio Commanders coach Mike Riley is pleased with his initial roster. Crafted under general manager Daryl Johnston, the Commanders will feature players from multiple levels of professional football and young talent recently graduated from both regional universities and those several states away.
“It’s all become so real on each step of the way,” Riley said. “It’s become a little clearer getting started and having a real team in a brand new league. From the very beginning to getting the chance to go to mini camp and now getting ready to start practicing with this group tomorrow, it’s all become clear. We’re excited.”
A veteran play caller of 43 seasons, Riley was hired in June of 2018 to become the Commanders head coach under the direction of Johnson. Having experience coaching at both American levels of football as well as plenty of success in the Canadian Football League, the 65-year-old coach is more than qualified to help begin a new franchise in a city that hasn’t featured a professional football program since 2014.
It won’t be the first time that Riley has coached in the Lone Star State before. The Corvallis, Ore., native was named the head coach of the San Antonio Riders, a member of the World League of American Football. During the team’s two-year existence, Riley would lead the Riders to an 11-9 record before the league’s suspension in 1992.
“I do remember the fan base and I thought back then that we had as good of fan base as anybody in the league,” Riley said. “I thought at that time and I know they will again embrace our team. We had I think overall some of the best crowds in the league. It felt like home.”
Perhaps best known for his work at Oregon State, Riley helped turned the Beavers program from one of the worst college football teams in the country into one of the strongest programs in the Pac-12. Going 93-80 over the course of 14 seasons (1997-98, 2003-14), Riley would lead the Beavers to eight bowl appearances, winning six.
Known for his ability to mold young players into potential NFL level talent, Riley is set to help the Commanders bring the strong level of success in the team’s inaugural season. Sending 30 players from Oregon State to the next level, Riley understands the process it takes for players to grow and find success at any level of football.
“This league will provide opportunity for a lot of people,” Riley said. “One of the things I thought most about in talking with Daryl as we hired our staff is that we wanted really good football coaches, but we really wanted guys that thought a lot about developing players.
“We want to help these guys continue to play and give them valuable tools to help them get better. We want to win so we wanted to get a coaching staff that are teachers.”
The Commanders will feature multiple players from across the Texas collegiate region. From the Texas Longhorns to local talent from the UTSA Roadrunners, 14 universities from the state will be represented at the team’s initial start of training camp. Johnston believes that the Commanders won’t just feature former Texas stars, but rather just talented individuals who can play the game of football.
“Come out on February 9 and you’ll see the type of football player that exist out that’s not on a NFL roster,” Johnston said. “There’s some very, very talented young men that play this game that are going to be in our league. I think you’re going to be impressed. ”
San Antonio’s’ roster will feature several talented players who found success at the NFL level before joining the alliance. Running back David Cobb (Minnesota) rushed back to back 1,000 yard seasons for the Golden Gophers offense before joining the Tennessee Titans in 2015. Free safety Derron Smith (Fresno State) found great success for the Bulldogs defense and played two season with the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
Local residents might recognize a few names on the list after their time as members of the Roadrunners program. Quarterback Dalton Sturm will return to the Alamodome for the first time since 2017 with a chance to become the team’s starter before the team’s matchup against the San Diego Fleet on February 9. Sturm is the Roadrunners all-time leader in passing touchdowns (49) and recently was a member of the Dallas Cowboys training camp roster.
The Commanders are looking to build a winning program in their first season and have the pieces to do so at all areas. While the ultimate goal for some might be to return the NFL, Riley hopes that the team set in place will help bring a championship to San Antonio this season.
“We obviously want to have a winning team number one and we want to play good, exciting football,” Riley said. “We will grow as a group. I already feel like we’re already there and we want to put on a good show for this city. ”
The Commanders continue training camp throughout the month of January.