With new football recruits making decisions every week, it can be easy to lose sight of the high school seniors who were committed to the MSU from the very beginning. Spartan Nation caught up with Traverse City St. Francis standout Riley Bullough, the player who made himself the first member of the 2012 recruiting class when he committed after the spring game last April.
Yes, we said Bullough. Sound familiar? It should – Riley is no stranger to Spartan Nation. His older brother Max was a force on a monster Spartan defense last season, but Riley’s connection goes back even further than that: he and Max are third-generation Spartans. Their grandfather Hank wore the green and white from 1952-54, their father Shane from 1983-1986, and their uncle Chuck from 1988-1991. And if that is not enough of a football legacy, their maternal grandfather and another uncle played at Notre Dame.
With such a strong football lineage, it may seem as though Riley was destined to play, but he assured Spartan Nation that he is passionate about the game in his own right.
He said of his love for the game of football on Spartan Nation Radio, “It’s just something I was born with, and there’s so much about it. It’s unlike any other sport because of how tough it is,” he says. My dad always told us it’s the ultimate test of manhood, and it really is. If you want to get better, you’ve got to go out there and grind out in practice every single day.”
His daily grind has paid off thus far, as Coach Mark Dantonio said on signing day that Bullough has the potential to play immediately next year at linebacker. This is coming off a 2011 season during which Dantonio played only two true freshmen.
Even Riley was surprised at the head coach’s comments.
“It means a lot. Coach Dantonio always has great things to say, but when he actually comes out and says in front of a big audience that I could contribute early, it gives me a lot of motivation to work harder in the spring and when I get down there this summer.”
Like many of the incoming Spartans, Riley cannot wait to return to East Lansing – this time to stay. He loves weight lifting and says he is in the weight room every day during the offseason. Because of this, he is anxious to team up with head strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie to increase his size and strength.
“When there’s a challenge in front of me, I like to attack it the best way I can,” he says, “and football is really a way for me to get that out. (Big hits) are what I’ve always been known for up here.”
Those big hits are not left solely for opponents, though, as Riley says his family is extremely competitive at home, as well.
“It’s not as nice as everyone thinks around here,” he said with a laugh. “It’s really competitive but in a good way, and it really brings everyone closer. I think our family reunions could be put on a TV show, and people would watch it.”
Competitive or not, there is no question that family unity and family values matter to the Bullough family, and the idea of lining up on defense next to his brother excites him.
“That’ll mean a lot to me,” he says. “We played together in high school, but to play side by side at the college level would be something special, something we could remember for the rest of our lives.”
He is also confident it will be a big moment for his parents and says he is not quite sure which will be the first to get emotional.
“Probably my dad. He’s been through a lot with us but has also been through it all himself.”
Whatever happens next year on the field, there is no doubt Riley will be another impressive addition to the Spartan family. Through his hard work ethic and strong sense of tradition and pride, he is sure to make an impact in East Lansing, and he appreciates the chance.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”