During the 2007 and 2008 seasons for Kansas football, linebacker Mike Rivera was a leader and a major contributor for the Jayhawks. In what would prove to be the most productive two year span in the history of Kansas football, Rivera helped to anchor a solid defensive unit during one of the more explosive offensive time periods in college football history.
A few weeks back, before the conference realignment mess got started, I was preparing a quick question and answer session. At the time Nashville was also experiencing some fairly devastating flooding and between the two, it took a little longer to get this wrapped up. Nonetheless I recently connected with Mike and finished up the last couple of questions I had and the interview is finally a wrap.
Without further ado here's a quick Q&A with Mike Rivera talking about his career, Kansas and his current situation in Nashville with Rock Chalk Talk.Talking about preparing for his NFL career and his initial stop in Chicago.
Getting started with the process was just a lot of hard work, trying to get a chance to get picked up by a team.
We had our Pro Day at Kansas and I did pretty well, so I ended up seeing more interest from different teams when draft day got closer.
Basically, it ended up being between a handful of teams and I decided to go with the Bears on a free agent contract because I felt that they had been the most honest with me in helping to make a decision of what team to go to.
It was funny because the same day I was drafted to the Bears, my best friend's daughter was born. It was basically a life changing event for both of us and a coincidence because he grew up a die-hard Bears fan. He was pretty ecstatic because his best friend got a free agent deal with the Bears and his daughter was born all on the same day.
As far as going to the Bears, it was just one of the greatest opportunities I think I've ever received. They have such a rich football tradition. Plus, one of my idols, Brian Urlacher is on the Bears. Having the chance to go learn from him and be a part of the same team with him was a pretty incredible experience.
On who helped influence him the most during his career.
My biggest supporters have always been my parents.
Another person who really supported me at Kansas was Mike Harrity. He works in the athletic department.
He encouraged me and got me started in SAAC, a Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Being involved in that program and being a part of that group off the field helped me develop as a person outside of football.
Talking about what he misses most from his time at Kansas.
My favorite off the field memories were just the time with my roommates. Adrian Mayes, Joe Mortensen, Marcus Herford, and I used to have bbq's together at my house.
We would have all the guys over from the team to just hangout and bbq. Now times have changed because we all live in different areas and we can't get together whenever we feel like it, like we used to. It's a big change.
I’ll tell you one thing that I do not miss about college is typing papers and always doing homework. That has been one of the easier adjustments.
On life in the NFL, the Titans and Nashville.
The NFL has been great because all you do is focus on playing football.
It is obviously a dream come true to have your job be the sport that you love. At times, you just have to step back and realize what you are actually doing because it is very special. Every day you have to be grateful for the opportunity because everyday you will see guys come and go.
Being with the Titans, I feel like my football skills have improved so much because of the coaching that I've been fortunate enough to be around. The coaches help you see the game a different way so that you can play faster and smarter.
Outside of football, Life in Nashville has been great. I've had to get used to a lot of country music, but I feel like Nashville is a place that I could live even after my football career.
Nashville has that small town feel, yet it is big enough to where there is still a variety of things to do and places to eat. The biggest change is going somewhere alone and having to start from scratch in getting to know new people, a new team and the new area.
Talking about the flooding in Nashville and chipping in around the community.
The flood has made a major impact on the community, but it has also brought everyone together.
One of the great things I think we've all learned about Nashville is that the community is very resilient.
Just as an example, we took a day as a team to go help with the cleanup efforts and one of the most surprising things was that even though people were standing outside of houses that were completely destroyed, they still had a positive attitude and they were doing their best to clean up and start rebuilding their homes and help others.
It was definitely life changing and felt very good to be a part of that.
On career goals both in the short term and looking at a long term view.
My number one long term goal right now is to become the best football player that I can possibly be.
I want to learn as much as I can from these coaches and the veteran players because I know that I am working with some of the best mentors out there. Someday if I want to coach football or be apart of the game in a different capacity, I will be able to take what they've taught me and apply it to other situations.
My main goal in the near term is just finishing the off season strong and getting ready for training camp. I want to earn myself a spot of the Tennessee team for the 2010 season.
Talking about staying in touch with the Kansas program and his thoughts on the coaching change.
I still keep in touch with not only the football program, but several people in the KU athletic department. Most recently I've talked to a few of the players about the upcoming season and getting ready for that when I was back to visit in the Spring.
I also had a chance to meet some of the new coaches and start to become a familiar face with them. I know that someday I want to finish up my Masters degree at KU so I feel like I want to stay in touch with the program and the staff.
In general I have a lot of pride in being a Jayhawk so I like to stay up with what is going on in KU, not only football, but everything else that is happening in athletics, academics, everything.
As far as the recent changes I think Turner Gill is a great hire for KU. I've heard nothing but positives from people around the program in what he has done so far with the team. In general I feel that if Lew Perkins brought someone in than it is going to be a good decision because he is only interested in the success of KU.
Just like any program with an entirely new staff though, it is going to take a little time for the team to readjust, but I really think it's a great move for the program.