Athlete of the Week: Surprising visit highlights Rivers’ day against Handley

Dylan Rivers

STEPHENS CITY – Dylan Rivers had a pretty solid game Saturday against Handley. The Sherando senior linebacker/tight end led the team in tackles and had three receiving touchdowns, but that wasn’t the highlight of his day.

An hour before the game Rivers, a Penn State University verbal commit, found out that Penn State head coach James Franklin would be joining Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry on the Sherando sidelines to watch Rivers play. It was Penn State’s bye week, and Franklin and Pry chose to come watch Rivers play.

“That blew me away,” Rivers said. “You know they’re so busy throughout the year because that is one stressful job. The fact that we have a ton of targets and a ton of commits, and the fact that they took their time on their bye week to come see me play, that was nice.”

Rivers, The Northern Virginia Daily Athlete of the Week for the week of Oct. 10-16, had eight tackles, 103 yards receiving in the 56-0 victory over Handley.

He said he knew for a week that Pry would be there, but he said that having Franklin there made it even more special.

“I love coach Pry, but coach Franklin, it was really cool seeing him come watch me play,” Rivers said. “He was all dressed up. He looked like a celebrity. He was on the field in an all-blue suit, probably cost four grand and then nice shoes.”

Rivers said he didn’t feel nervous playing in front of his future coaches. He said if anything it made him play better.

Sherando coach Bill Hall said that Rivers always makes an impact on the game, even if it doesn’t show up in stats. He said that knowing Rivers was playing in front of his coaches, he wanted to give Rivers a chance to shine a little bit.

“The kid works so hard, so it’s nice when you can highlight him a little bit,” Hall said. “I knew coach Pry was coming, but when coach Franklin also could make it – we had some targets on (Rivers) already but I knew that I wanted to get them earlier if possible. And for this to happen, 10 other people have got to be doing their job.”

Rivers said that the Penn State coaches were happy with what they saw. Rivers is going to play at linebacker for the Nittany Lions, but he said that Franklin and Pry were impressed with his play at tight end this week as well.

Rivers said he called them after the game and they jokingly said they might move him to tight end.

This season Rivers is putting up solid numbers for the Warriors on both sides of the ball.

The 6-foot-3 230-pounder has 14 receptions for 278 yards and four touchdowns at tight end. Rivers also has 14 carries for 83 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

Defensively, he moved to middle linebacker this season and hasn’t missed a beat. He leads the area in tackles with 65. Rivers said playing at middle linebacker will help prepare him for college.

“I think I’ve done pretty well so far,” Rivers said. “Coach Franklin and coach Pry love my film. So I feel like I’m getting my keys well. I feel like they put me there this year to help me with next year. So I feel like that’s helped me a lot, and next year I feel like I’ll have a legitimate chance of getting on the field.”

Rivers said he thinks the Warriors are playing some of their best football right now, and now he’s just focused on helping the team win.

He said this year he’s trying to be more of a leader for the team.

“I think we have a good core of leaders,” Rivers said. “Right now we’re just trying to get to that stage where we’re only focused on winning, we’re only focused on getting better. I think we’ve taken steps and steps toward that goal.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com.