Hard work is way of life for NFL prospect Duke Riley of LSU

On days when you can’t find or get in touch with LSU linebacker Duke Riley, he’s likely gone fishing.

And the 2016 Tigers’ most valuable player is probably on a boat in the middle of a lake with a large haul of red snapper.

“There’s no phone service, no nothing, just getting away from everything, no social media and just clearing your mind,” Riley said.

But where you can find Riley right now is in the final days of prep work at the APEC Center in Fort Worth for this week’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind. The linebackers report on Thursday and on-field workouts are Sunday.

And should the numbers merit out in his Sunday workout, you’ll likely find Riley’s draft stock shooting up quickly.

None of the hard work is lost on a guy that’s been fighting just about every day of his life.

Hurricane Katrina forced his family to relocate, his beloved LSU family didn’t make him a scholarship offer until the final week of the recruiting process and once in his uniform in Baton Rouge, it was three long seasons as a primary special teams player before coaches gave him a shot at earning a starting spot at linebacker.

After earning team MVP honors and a spot as permanent team captain, Riley’s made the most of his opportunity.

He’ll saddle up with top prospects at the combine with yet another set of critics in an attempt to prove himself all over again. He’s projected to be a mid-round (fourth or fifth) pick.

“Every day I wake up, I know I’m not going to get this day back,” Riley said. “I have to focus on every minute, every rep and don’t look ahead.

“I know I’m going in as a rookie, but I’m not a rookie of the game. I’ve been playing my whole life and I know I’m going to be around the best players in the game. That’s only going to make me better,” he said.

“Football is my life and I know if I do something wrong or slack off, at this level, they’ll just cut me.”

But again, cutting Riley doesn’t seem all that probable.

In his senior season, Riley started all 12 LSU games and recorded 93 tackles with nine of those for loss and 1.5 sacks.

“He’s very similar to Atlanta linebacker and former LSU teammate Deion Jones,” CBS Sports analyst Dane Brugler said. “This is a guy that did whatever was asked of him, then he gets a chance and he’s turned himself into a legitimate second-day pick.

“Riley only helped himself at Senior Bowl and I think has all the intangibles there. He’s waited his turn, he has the speed to play the game, his pursuit is there and I think he’ll really stand out on special teams coverages.”

With his leadership role, LSU’s defense gave up just 1.3 touchdowns per game and was No. 2 in rushing defense at 117.2 yards per game.

“In some of the biggest games we had, Alabama, Auburn, any SEC game really, I had some of my best numbers in those games,” he said. “It’s all a mindset to me, and when you tell yourself you’re going to do something, you better do it.

“I mean my mind is already made up and I’m looking forward to it.”

2017 NFL draft

The NFL draft will be April 27-29 in Philadelphia. The first round is April 27, second and third rounds on April 28 and rounds four through seven on April 29. Here’s the first-round order:

1. Cleveland

2. San Francisco

3. Chicago

4. Jacksonville

5. Tennessee (from L.A. Rams)

6. New York Jets

7. San Diego Chargers

8. Carolina

9. Cincinnati

10. Buffalo

11. New Orleans

12. Cleveland (from Philadelphia)

13. Arizona

14.* Indianapolis

15.* Philadelphia (from Minnesota)

16. Baltimore

17. Washington

18. Tennessee

19. Tampa Bay

20. Denver

21. Detroit

22. Miami

23. New York Giants

24. Oakland

25. Houston

26. Seattle

27. Kansas City

28. Dallas Cowboys

29. Green Bay Packers

30. Pittsburgh Steelers

31. Atlanta Falcons

32. New England Patriots

* 14th and 15th positions will be determined by a coin flip.

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