Riley Smith played his last college football game for West Texas A&M on Nov. 12, 2016.
His name wasn’t called in the 2017 NFL Draft, and a workout with the Los Angeles Chargers never led to a professional contract.
“After that I didn’t hear anything from anybody,” Smith said. “It was about two years of just straight grinding with really nothing to look forward to, just keeping my dream alive.”
The 2012 Timberline High graduate finally caught a break.
After hearing about the newly formed Alliance of American Football, Smith attended a tryout for the league on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles. Three days later the 5-foot-11, 179-pound receiver got a call with an offer to join the league’s San Antonio franchise.
“To be honest with you, I kind of broke down,” Smith said. “I just kept asking my agent, ‘Are you serious?’”
Smith signed a three-year, $250,000 deal last week.
The Alliance of American Football was founded by Hall of Famer Bill Polian and TV and film producer Charlie Ebersol and includes among its executives former NFL stars Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward and Jared Allen, a graduate of Idaho State.
The Alliance will feature eight teams — Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and Salt Lake City — and a 12-week season that kicks off February 9, 2019. The AAF has already secured a TV contract with CBS and an apparel deal with Starter.
“Our objective is to take some of those people who can’t quite make it and make them into quality NFL players,” Polian told ESPN writer Jeremy Fowler.
Smith played two seasons at Ventura College in California, totaling 60 catches for 869 yards and 15 touchdowns. He received interest from a number of FBS schools after his sophomore year, but grades kept him from making the leap.
Smith ended up at Division II West Texas A&M for one season before declaring for the NFL Draft, a decision he says he now “regrets.”
As a junior with the Buffs, Smith started nine games and caught 23 passes for 273 yards and a pair of TDs and also returned 11 kicks for 214 yards with a long of 70.
The AAF’s San Antonio franchise will play in the Alamodome, and former Chargers coach Mike Riley has been hired as the head coach.
“I finally made it,” Smith said. “Just getting my foot in the door is the hardest part, and now that I’ve done it, I’ve just got to continue to keep rising up.”