Just hours after UL’s 27-20 homecoming victory over Arkansas State, former UL wide receiver and linebacker Al Riles was shot and killed in Dallas at the age of 27.
No further details of the incident were available.
“For something like that to happen, it breaks me,” said former teammate Dominique Tovell, who said he shared a locker with Riles for two years.
“If you wanted a guy that worked hard and was passionate about what he wanted to do and an all-around team player, that was Al.”
Riles came from Lakeshore High and made an impact on the Cajuns’ program. The 5-10, 212-pounder from Covington actually began his playing career (2012-16) as a linebacker. In 2013, he contributed 29 tackles, as well as two pass breakups, an interception and two fumble recoveries.
“The man was up there at 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning doing field work,” Tovell added. “That’s how committed he was to things like film study. He was a real passionate man. He lived his life that way.”
A year later, Riles moved to offense and really made a name for himself. Riles had 46 receptions for 477 yards and four TDs as a junior and encored that with 60 catches for 729 yards and two scores his senior season.
“He worked for everything he got,” Tovell said. “Whether it was offense, defense or special teams, he worked for it. That’s one thing nobody could take away from Al. Everybody would tell you that, first one in and last one out. He worked. He made it work. He was just a passionate all-around great guy.”
Riles finished his UL career with 140 catches for 1,560 yards with seven touchdowns.
"Al wore his heart," Tovell said. "He was a big-hearted guy. He was passionate about everything he did — whether we had a good day or a bad day at practice, a good game or a bad game, he was there for you. He was an emotional guy. He wore his heart on his sleeve. He never shied away from words. He gave it everything he had every day."
For UL team pastor Eric Treuil, Riles’ life being cut short was a true tragedy. His story was just beginning.
“To say that life started life behind the 8-ball would be an understatement,” Treuil said. “That’s the reason why it’s so heartbreaking. He’s so young and his life was really just beginning to move in the right direction. Al had his issues, his struggles. It really does break my heart to see this take place like that — just way too young.
“There was so much potential in Al, as far as his future. He had a daughter that meant a lot to him. He was wanting to do the right thing.”
During his senior season at UL, Riles made a Facebook post that explained his personal life to many.
"My name is Al-Damion Riles and I am from Covington Louisiana. I am a 23 year old African American and I am the first male in my family to graduate from a 4 year university. I have a criminal justice degree along with 3 championship rings playing football for the university, currently chasing my 4th. I am a proud father of a beautiful baby girl who goes by the name of Amahri lee Riles who I plan to give the world some day! I grew up in a poverty stricken area where it was hard to succeed because of the skin color I was in. You shouldn't fear me because I have no criminal record and I plan to one day play for the NFL or work in the criminal justice system to help make a change in our past failures."
Treuil remembers Riles being a player that had a positive influence on his teammates.
“Al was one of those guys that could light up a room,” Treuil said. “He would change the whole atmosphere and not in a goofy way. He just always brought something on a positive angle. There were a couple of times when players would get upset with one another and get into some little scuffles, Al was the master negotiator.
“He could talk people down and get them focused on the common enemy, which would be the other team.”
In fact, Treuil said he wouldn’t hesitate to rank Riles among his favorite former Cajuns he’s ever worked with.
“Honestly, he brought a lot of life,” he said. “He was always upbeat and always moving in the right direction. Truthfully, I’ve been around the program for a long time and there have been a lot of guys come through, but Al was definitely up there at the top of my list.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up by the family.
“When he was with the program, you just felt the optimism,” Treuil said.
“You just felt that this kid is going to break the curse and we’re going to see great things come to pass.
“That’s the part that hurts — the untapped potential.”