Hometown: Melfort, Sask.
The University of Saskatchewan was a natural fit for Mattland Riley following his high school career at Melfort and Unit Comprehensive Collegiate. He was coached there by a pair of former Huskies offensive linemen in David Rogers and Jared Koroll, both of whom immediately recognized his potential as a blocker.
“I originally wanted to play defensive line so I could tackle people,” said Riley. “I ran over to join the defensive group in our very first practice in grade nine, but I could hear my head coach talking about me in the background. He quickly called out my number and said, ‘Matt, you’re going to play the greatest position in football — centre.'”
After overcoming an sense of initial disappointment, Riley soon came to embrace playing along the offensive line.
“I learned to love the position. I also got to start on the senior team right away and playing four years of high school football was a lot of fun. I was super fortunate to do that.”
The 2019 U Sports first-team all-star believes the strength of his high school coaching made for an easier transition to the university level.
“My high school coaches were fantastic. I had really quality coaching right from the beginning, which I attribute a lot of my success to.”
The University of Saskatchewan was a good fit for Riley geographically, located less than 200 kilometres southwest of his hometown. The school also boasted a strong engineering program, which was perfect for the academically-oriented prospect.
Riley has been climbing up CFL draft boards for the past year due in part to the success of his team. The Huskies finished 5-3 in 2019 and came one game away from a berth in the Mitchell Bowl. Running back Adam Machart had a season for the record books, finishing the year with 195 carries for 1,610 yards and nine touchdowns.
Teams covet versatility along the offensive line and Riley has that in spades given his experience at centre and guard. He played both spots with the Huskies, starting meaningful games at both positions.
“I like both of them. They’re different. Right now, I’d probably choose guard because that’s what I played most recently but centre is something I’m still very comfortable with.”
Riley played the entire 2019 season with a partial cast on his hand (pictured above) after suffering a broken bone in his finger just prior to the 2019 East-West Bowl. The break — located near the fingertip — took a long time to heal but is now back to 100 percent.
“When I was playing the cast looked a lot bigger than it was — a lot of it was just tape. The brace was really just a plastic guard on the end of my finger.”
Scouts have been impressed with Riley’s interviews thus far, an underrated portion of the draft process.
“I’d attribute that to being a small-town kid and being really honest. It probably helps, too, that I’ve gone through a professional college and had some experiences with professional interviews. I’ve had experience riding that line between confidence and humility, which I think is key.”
Playing for the Roughriders is a dream shared by many young football players in the province of Saskatchewan. Though he would embrace the opportunity to play for his local team, Riley would be just as excited to join any of the CFL’s other eight teams.
“It would be amazing to play in front of a hometown crowd, but you have to be open to anything as a university player looking to play professionally. I would be honoured to play for Saskatchewan, but at the same time I’d love to play anywhere else.”
Anonymous quote from a CFL scout: “Riley is smart and strong. His mobility’s not elite, but he fits what a lot of teams are looking for along the o-line.”
Projected round: 2-3