Patch Chats with Ian Riley
Needham High School senior running back has recorded five rushing touchdowns in his past two games for the varsity football team.
Needham High School’s senior running back Ian Riley is a true gamer.
He loves the sport of football and is committed to working hard as well as having fun—especially because it’s his final year sporting the blue and gold. Riley also has experienced a great deal of success this season, for which he credits his offensive line, senior quarterback Drew Burnett the rest of his teammates, who have helped him record five rushing touchdowns and 100 yards or more in the team’s past two games against Brookline and Weymouth.
Needham Patch spoke with Riley recently about the season so far and why he truly loves playing football.
Can you give us some insight on why the running game has been one of the biggest reasons your team has been so successful this year? Obviously this year, myself and senior halfback Mike Vespa work well with our wide receivers and quarterback, which has allowed our running game to flourish a lot more. Our opponents—they look at pass coverage a lot more and film, and it opens up our run game a lot, and the offensive line has been doing a good job. When they open up holes and [Vespa and I] get into the secondary—we can work with that every time.
How important is it for you to personally score a touchdown? We make goals every week and generally it’s more yardage-based. We talk about yardage a lot, but obviously every time you get the ball your goal is the end zone.
How would you describe your team’s big win against Weymouth? I think it was a huge victory in the Bay State. It was kind of a statement, getting recognized as a team, and I think it was kind of a turning point in our season where we meshed together, got everything clicking, got the run game going, got the pass game, and everything was clicking.
Coming into this season, did you believe that your team was going to experience this much success with a [4-1] record? Obviously as freshmen, we’ve been waiting for this—all the way through high school. I think looking toward the season, I had confidence. I have confidence in these guys. Last year was fun and all, but this is our senior year, and I’ve had confidence in us since the very beginning.
What is the most important thing for you and your team to keep doing, so the Rockets can continue their success for the rest of the season? The defense has been playing strong the whole year, there’s no doubt about that, but offensively, we need to keep both sides of the attack going. Our offense—we’ve got the pass going all the time and we’ve got the rush, so I think this far in the season, we’re doing pretty good. I think we just need to build off what we have so far to keep it up through the second half of the season.
What does the number 20 mean to you? It really isn’t anything special—it didn’t start as important to me, but obviously it has become my number. I like the number and I wouldn’t trade it for anything and maybe if my brother plays next year, who knows, I’ll toss it down to him. But it’s not so important; it’s just my number. I like it.
What’s the best part of playing Needham football? This is our senior year and it’s finally our time to shine. We’ve talked about this since we were freshmen, getting our team together and making a run for it. This is the best part. We’re seniors, and this is our last year here and we’ll make the best of it.
Describe an average game day—what occurs during your day, leading up to kick-off? We’ve had a couple weekend games, which is obviously out of the ordinary, but I think everyone on our team can say that you walk in and you've got the jitters. But eventually it wears off during the first couple snaps, and you get in the zone and everything starts clicking and there’s just a rush.”
Name one song that gets you excited and amped for the game. I love 'Baba O'Riley' [by The Who] right before the game. I usually blast it out during home games—that’s the best.
What’s a pregame ritual you do prior to kick-off? Every morning usually before games, my mom makes eggs and bacon, but other than that, there's school lunch—can’t beat that. Also, I think between me and Vespa, it’s probably the National Anthem. We always stand next to each other and we’ve been doing that forever.
Do you want to play football in college? I’d love to play, but really, I’d love to use it to get into a better academic school. I love football, I love the game, and I’d love to get into a nice school and play football. But if that’s not the direction I’m headed in then it’s fine with me.
Who is one professional athlete you look up to or model your game after? I loved Troy Brown when he played [with the New England Patriots]. The guy played both sides of the ball, offense and defense, and took snaps at quarterback, returned punts, so he did everything. I just loved watching him.
Once the season concludes, what is one thing you’ll always remember from this year? I guess it just depends on how far we go. If we make a run for it, who knows? Whatever the outcome of our season is, that’s what we’ll remember it by, and we’ve got to make the best of it.