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Giants’ DT Jordon Riley took a winding road to the NFL

Seventh-round pick said he never lost faith despite playing at four different colleges

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington State
Jordon Riley (91) chases Washington State Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward (1) during a 2022 game.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina. Garden City Community College. Nebraska. Oregon. It was a winding six-year collegiate journey for New York Giants rookie defensive tackle Jordon Riley.

From DI to community college and back again, the journey has brought him to the NFL as a seventh-round pick by the Giants, No. 243 overall. Riley spent the now-concluded rookie mini-camp taking it all in.

“Words can’t describe it. I came a long way,” Riley said on Saturday afternoon. “This was just a blessing to be in this building. I come from a small town in Durham, North Carolina. Opportunities like this are slim. I really think it’s a blessing, and I’m just glad to be here. With all the stops, I just think I fell in the right place here in New York. I’m just blessed to be able to be in this great tradition, great building.”

Riley said it was “a humbling experience” having to step back from Division I to a community college program after two years at North Carolina.

“Just coming from DI and just being out there, not having all the resources, not having all the help that you usually get at DI, it really taught me a lot,” Riley said. “It helped me be the man I am today, and I just appreciate being out there.”

Riley had a special reason for continuing his collegiate odyssey.

“I didn’t ever lose faith. I believe in God and everything like that, and I just kept going,” he said. “I just knew that I just couldn’t stop. I’ve got a little daughter at home, and she means the world to me, and I just think me stopping wouldn’t have helped her, so I just felt like, just keep going. That’s all I was thinking about.”

Riley hopes his collegiate experience will help him navigate the NFL.

“I’ve been different places. I’ve been to different colleges, and I had to meet new people, new facilities and new coaches. It’s all a part of my journey,” Riley said. “I just learned to just never stop, never get too down on myself, just keep going, keep pursuing. Even all the adversity I went through, I think just stay humble and just keep going.”

When the Giants drafted Riley, he was said to be 6-foot-5, 338 pounds. He is listed on the team’s website as 325 pounds. He looked much slimmer than 338 on Saturday and said he is “around 320.”

“I feel like I’m good at this weight,” he said.

The Giants hope Riley will provide depth behind star defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, new teammates Riley admits he isn’t very familiar with.

“I really don’t know too much about them,” he said. “I just came in ready for rookie minicamp. I’m just blessed to be here. I met Coach Dre (Patterson), the D-line coach, and I’m just ready to learn from him, his coaching style, and that’s what I’m here for.”