most Longhorn football players, the path to Austin was paved by a burnt orange
brick road. The Great Oz would summon players to the Emerald City; put forth an
offer to “come home”, and shortly thereafter players would put on their Nikes
and click their heels three times. Voila, you’re a Longhorn.
For a few Texas players, the path wasn’t nearly as linear, but
rather filled with tolls. Zeke Riser didn’t have to pay any tolls from La
Vernia to the University of Houston to the University of Texas, but a few were
taken. Whether it was losing his sophomore season to a knee injury, or
experiencing the ups and downs of disappointing seasons and exceedingly
spectacular ones, the street has been cobblestone.
Scratch that, perhaps easement, is a better term.
Easements are typically shared by two parties in a way that
is mutually beneficial.
After spending four years with no regrets as a Houston
Cougar, Riser will spend his final year of eligibility as a Texas Longhorn
after graduating from UH last fall.
Little known fact: Texas expressed interest in Riser as a
high school senior, particularly late in the recruiting process, but an offer
never came his way and it was off to play for some guy named Kevin Sumlin.
Riser enjoyed being a Cougar. “I liked that we were often
underestimated. We weren’t give the respect that other schools get and it made
us fight harder,” said Riser as the chip on his shoulder became more evident
the more he spoke. He continued, “After we went 5-7 it was frustrating. I tore
my ACL, Case Keenum tore his ACL; we lost a lot of people to injury. But we
bounced back and went 12-1 in 2011 when everyone doubted us. I wouldn’t change
anything and I’ll never have a negative thing to say about U of H.”
Upon graduation, Riser requested to be let out of his
scholarship and it was granted. The
original plan was to enroll at the University of Texas – San Antonio so Riser
could be closer to home, but because the Roadrunner’s play the Cougars this
year, it wasn’t permissible.
That brought Riser back to Austin, a place he had camped at
while in high school and made enough of an impression on Mack Brown that Brown
remembered Riser as he recently walked around the Texas practice field.
One coach who certainly remembered Riser was defensive ends
coach, Oscar Giles. As a former Longhorn defensive end, Giles played with Bo
Robinson, Riser’s coach at La Vernia.
Coach Robinson relayed to his former line-mate Riser’s current situation
and things were set in motion.
Another connection Riser has to Texas is through Jim
Jeffcoat, his former position coach and the father of Longhorn defensive end,
Jackson. “Jackson’s one of the guys I’ve talked to quite a bit and I’m looking
forward to playing with him.”
Riser to Texas works out well for everyone. He’s still close
to home, and he gets to compete for playing time and provide depth at a
position you can never have enough, especially in a passing league.
I asked him about how he sees his role and the type of
talent Texas already has at defensive end. “Just from watching them in practice
they looked really good. Cedric Reed is a big guy that moves well, and Torshiro
looks really good as more of a stand up guy. I can’t wait to get in there in
May and start competing with those guys.”
At 6-4 and 255 pounds, Riser has the look of a player with
the ability to contribute. In his last
season as a Cougar, he had 38 tackles, with four sacks, and, most telling, 11
tackles for loss. Riser’s obviously a player capable of getting up field,
something the Texas defensive staff puts heavy emphasis on.
As of now, Zeke’s coming in as a preferred walk-on, but I
wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the recipient of a scholarship in August. Walk-ons typically don’t have the look of
Riser, so Texas is fortunate to have him.
Welcome to the Longhorn family, Zeke. Enjoy the ride.