Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Rudy Riska: Alabama football coach dies aged 85

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Image copyright NCAA Image caption Riska was a key player in the Bear Bryant era in Tuscaloosa

Former Alabama assistant coach Rudy Riska has died aged 85, according to the college football establishment.

Riska was known as the Saban’s right-hand man in his playing days and became head coach of the San Francisco 49ers before returning to his native Alabama.

Coach Nick Saban said: “Rudy was my mentor.”

Riska will always be linked with iconic former Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Riska was a quarterback at Alabama in the 1950s and soon after he joined Bryant’s coaching staff in 1965.

Bryant was famous for pairing college-age players with seasoned pros in the team’s daily practices.

Having been roommates with running back Jim Plunkett at the University of California, Riska and Bryant were often seen on the first flight to Los Angeles or packed together with teammates on a plane home to Tuscaloosa.

Their partnership was a good one, as Bryant’s first two leading rushers at Alabama won two Heisman Trophies (top player in college football) – Plunkett in 1967 and Roddy Jones in 1971.

“Rudy was a model human being, well-liked throughout the University of Alabama and across the country as one of the winningest football coaches in the history of college football,” Alabama football head coach Nick Saban said.

“Rudy helped make Bear Bryant one of the greatest coaches in the history of college football and, although they had very different styles, Coach Riska was a terrific mentor to me and countless young coaches before me.”

Riska was known for his tough approach and was a founding member of the Air Raid passing offence – a West Coast variety that was later adopted at Alabama by Bryant.

Image copyright NCAA Image caption Nick Saban joins Riska in 1966

Riska went on to become head coach of the Los Angeles Rams for seven years before joining Saban’s staff in 2002.

Riska was inducted into the Alabama College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

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