Former Houston Cougar Riser takes unorthodox path to the Forty Acres

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By Eric Nahlin, Inside Texas Recruiting Editor
Posted Mar 5, 2013
Copyright © 2018

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Zeke Riser

For 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.


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