by Bridget Veihmeyer
When Chad Riley signed with the Irish four years ago, his goal, along with that of the five other incoming freshmen soccer players, was to help put the Notre Dame soccer program on the map.
“I wanted to make soccer at this school important,” he says.
In his time here, he has done just that and, in the process, has left an enduring mark on the record books and anyone involved with the Irish soccer team.
One of the best passers in the country, this senior midfielder stands fourth all-time with 24 career assists and has led his team in assists for the past three seasons. After being selected to the BIG EAST All-Rookie Squad in 2000, he also earned third team all-BIG EAST honors in 2001 and 2002. His achievements, however, are not limited to the soccer field, as Riley is a two- time member of the BIG EAST Academic All-Star Team.
Perhaps this talent stems from a passion for the game that has grown since the Texas native began playing at age three. While playing his senior year of high school in England after his father’s job transfer, Riley honed his skills and adapted to a quicker, more physical style of play.
“That experience definitely made an impact because it helped me adapt freshman year to rougher, bigger guys,” Riley asserts.
Thus, he was not intimidated by jumping right into the starting lineup his first year, where he has remained ever since.
“As a freshman, I probably worried about statistics more than I do now, but after Coach Clark joined the program, I realized where the emphasis should be. If you do everything else right those will take care of themselves.”
Rather than let the statistics speak, Riley prefers to let his actions do the talking. Because he is not overly vocal in the locker room, he hopes that his teammates can learn from his example on the field.
“I’ve adopted the motto if you’re going to do something, do it right” Riley says.
“I feel like I’m cheating other people, as well as myself, if I don’t do something properly.”
This determination and unwavering work ethic, visible day in and day out, commands the attention of coaches and teammates alike.
Coach Bobby Clark comments, “Chad is a wonderful leader by example. He is completely focused and drives the other players along in a very strong and positive manner.”
Thus, it only seems natural that this year Riley would be selected assistant captain, a role that he thrives in and embraces. He recalls as a freshman looking up to his captains who profoundly influenced him, even in the small amount of time they spent together. Fast forward three years and now Riley is the pacesetter.
“I know that at least the freshmen are looking up to me, thinking this is how things are supposed to be. It keeps you honest and holds you accountable for yourself” he notes.
For the record, not only the freshman follow Riley’s example.
Senior forward Devon Prescod says, “The examples he provides are phenomenal. Besides trying to emulate Chad’s techniques, I find myself in support of him most always because of his hard work and dedication to send us where we want to go.”
Like a true leader, Riley wants his impact to continue after ninety minutes are up. While teaching his team the right way to play, he hopes, more importantly, to teach them the right way to live.
“I hope they understand that soccer is just a microcosm for how you want to live your life. I want them to understand that hard work and being a good person is something that you want to strive for. You have to try and show them that through soccer.”
He takes pride in being a part of the program’s improvement over the past three years and hopes to leave behind a lasting legacy after graduation.
“What are people going to say about me in a few years when my name comes up? What are the freshmen going to be saying about me when they’re seniors?”
If his younger teammates keep talking like they are now, Riley can be assured that in the future, the mention of his name will elicit nothing but praise.
Sophomore defender Dale Rellas tags Riley as “one of the best teammates you could ask for, especially if you are a younger guy. The thing that impresses me the most is the way he carries himself on the field. Chad works himself to exhaustion and it’s never about him- it’s always about the team.”
Riley credits his coaches and teammates, the best friends he has ever had, with his success. “You can see your faults through them, which helps you become a better person,” he says.
This unselfish, honest approach towards life explains why Riley is one of the most respected Irish players and makes his impact on the team indisputable.
Confirmation comes from Rellas who says, “Every national championship team has a Chad Riley.”