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“Duke Riley watched the NFL Draft Friday night surrounded by family, friends and former teammates from John Curtis as well as current and former LSU players. Towards the end of the second round, Riley left the room and took some time to himself.
About 10 minutes after Riley left the room, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker and former LSU Tiger Kwon Alexander joined Riley. When Riley re-entered the room where everyone was gathered to watch the draft, he had his smile back – something he didn’t have as he continued to watch names tick off the draft board.
Riley said he tried not to pay attention to mock drafts but he knew he was projected as a second- or third-round pick.
“”I’m hoping for second, of course because I know my worth and I know who I am and I know what I’m capable of,”” Riley said. “”I really would want to be in the first. But at the same time, I had to step away and when I stepped away, I just realized, you know what, ‘Don’t get down on yourself. Why are you down on yourself? You’re in this position. You’re blessed.’
“”A lot of people aren’t even in my shoes right now and not even close to being picked on the second day, or the first day or even the last day. It was a thing where I had to regroup with myself. I’m an introvert on some things. I like to just get myself alone and just tell myself, ‘Man, shake back. Get right. You good.’ That’s what I love about myself. I can always self-motivate myself to do anything I want to do and be anything I want to be.””
When Riley walked back into the room, the energy level picked up. And it didn’t take long to receive his awaited phone call.
The Atlanta Falcons selected Riley in the third round with the No. 75 overall pick. After speaking quietly for a few minutes to the Falcons’ management, Riley exploded with emotion as he announced to the room where he was headed – to pair up with former LSU teammate Deion Jones.Alexander, who was picked No. 124th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, was a PFWA All-Rookie team selection when he racked up 93 tackles with a pair of forced fumbles and two interceptions. Alexander racked up 145 tackles in 2016.
Last season, Jones vaulted up draft boards after running a 4.38 40-yard dash at LSU’s Pro Day. He was picked in the second round at No. 52 overall by the Falcons.
He helped lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl last season as a rookie starter. He made 106 tackles and intercepted three passes and returned two of them – including one against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints – for a touchdown.
Among the teammates with Riley for the Draft was Donnie Alexander, penciled in to replace Riley in the LSU starting lineup next season.
“”It means the world to have my brother Kwon here and my brother Donnie here,”” Riley said. “”We all share the same thing. We share the same bond. We come from the same place. We’re cut from the same cloth. It just feels great. That’s just the tradition we have over there at LSU. I had more than just Donnie, I had a few guys here to support me. It’s a family atmosphere we have at LSU. That’s what we’re steady trying to create.”