Q: Can you talk about your time at Michigan State? Overall, you had a very successful run, but this past season your team suffered an epic collapse by compiling a 3-9 record.
A: My time at Michigan State was awesome. There were some of the best times of the life. I’ve met some of my best friends that I’ll be friends with forever. I learned a lot. I feel as if I grew up a lot and, as you said, we did have a lot of success. I was able to win two Big Ten Championships and bowl games. This year didn’t go as planned.
I think we had a combination of things happen. We had injuries and a lot of young guys that hadn’t seen much playing time. Once we started losing, it kind of went out of control and it snowballed. We couldn’t turn it around, but I’m proud of the guys for fighting through the season and I’m sure they’ll be back next year with a great team and do great things.
Q: You come from a long line of football players starting with both your grandfathers, your uncles, father and two brothers that all played at one time or another. Was there even an option of playing any other sport growing up?
A: Well, we did play a lot of sports. We did play basketball, a little baseball and track, but obviously football was our No. 1 sport. We all loved it. We would all go to practice and then my dad became a coach for us actually growing up through middle school and high school. So, that was awesome. But we all grew up with it at a young age and the game just did so much for my family.
Q: You battled through a shoulder injury toward the end of your senior year. How tough was it to not only prepare for the combine, but then to also have to recover from your physical setback?
A: Yeah, actually I suffered it at the beginning in August. That’s when I my broke my shoulder blade, so I played the whole season with it. But toward the end once December came around, I was able to work on it, rehab it and get it better. So, once the combine came around, I was feeling healthy.
Q: So, what was the primary area of focus going into the pre-draft season as far as your training was concerned?
A: It was really a combination of things. But, you know, when you’re training for your pro day and the combine, the first thing you think of is you just want to run fast. A lot of the training we were doing was out in California…a lot of speed training, a lot of agility training and I feel like I had a pretty good showing at pro day. I was happy with it.
So, really I’m just moving on from there and now it’s just a waiting game. I’m here in East Lansing and I’ll be working out and waiting till the end of the month for the draft.
Q: You did not participate in the combine events, but you did have a chance I’m sure to meet with a number of NFL front-office personnel, coaches, etc. Did they ask you anything that caught you off-guard?
A: I’ve heard things from people that have been there before that you might get some off-questions and some things that may be out of the ordinary. But for me, I didn’t get too much of that.
A lot of the time I’ve spent with coaches and scouts, we were specifically talking football, so I was happy about that. I didn’t get caught off-guard too bad. But the combine was great. It’s a long four or five days, but you meet a lot of people and you get to do a lot of good things. So, I was definitely happy I was invited.
Q: Looking at you as a player, one of your strongest traits is your versatility. Can you expound on that?
A: In my time at Michigan State, I played a variety of positions. I played all three linebacker positions. I spent one year on offense playing halfback and fullback. So, I didn’t mind doing that because you never know where you’re going to fit in once you get to an NFL team. They like to able to move you around and find you a spot. So, that’s kind of what they talked to me about playing inside or potentially outside and that’s good for me because I’ve played both and I’m comfortable with both.
Q: I’ve heard you before describe yourself as a “high-energy guy”. But it’s hard not to notice your ability to anticipate plays and slip blocks. Can you touch on what went into preparing for a different opponent every week?
A: Yeah, I’m a huge film guy. I love watching film and I feel that I’ve seen what that can really do for you. Before I ever started at middle linebacker, I didn’t watch as much film as I needed to. But going into 2015, I really took it to heart to watch more film and I started reaping the benefits of that by anticipating things and seeing things before they happen. I really credit studying film in helping me become the player I was able to be.
Q: What are some of the things you’re looking for when you’re scouting an offense?
A: There’s quite a few things. First off, it’s the personnel…who the guys are and where they’re from and how big are they? I’m big on formation tendencies…what they want to run out of a certain formation or what motion they use. If you spend time studying their formations, you can them pretty much narrow things down to three or four plays they like to run out of that formation.
Q: You take pride in the fact that you love football. There are some guys in this draft that won’t even watch a football game unless they’re playing in it. Can you describe your passion for the sport in terms of watching it growing up and just being an overall fan?
A: You know, for me and my brothers and everyone in my family, we feel like it runs in our veins. I feel like when we get out of the womb, we just want to get a football in our hands. That’s just kind of like how we are. We were always playing catch in the backyard and tackling each other or something. So, for us to be able to play throughout our childhood, still play it in college at Michigan State and now hopefully in the NFL—it’s truly been a dream come true.
Q: At the beginning, we briefly referenced your pro day. Were you satisfied with your overall results?
A: Yeah, I was fine with it. I actually pulled my hamstring before the combine. That’s why I wasn’t able to do everything there, which obviously I was upset about. So, I was coming off that as pro day came and that was really the first day I ran full-speed in a few weeks. I was really happy with all my agility numbers and I wanted my 40 to be a little faster just like everyone does. But overall, it was a great experience to come back here and be with the guys one last time. I feel I performed well enough.
Q: What was your 40 time at the pro day?
A: It was a 4.7 flat.
Q: Going into the offseason, was there an emphasis on getting bigger or are you still at 230 pounds?
A: We talked about me maybe trying to gain some weight, but then we realized that I played my whole college career at about 230 pounds and that’s really where I feel comfortable and where I played at in all my years here. So, that’s kind of where I stayed. I’ve lost some body fat and my weight is up near 230, so I’m really pretty good with that now.
Q: What’s the most underrated aspect of your game or what’s the one thing that not enough people appreciate about you?
A: You know, kind of going off that, I feel that people see me as a smaller linebacker. They don’t see me being as strong as some other guys, but at pro day, I put 29 reps on the bench. I’d like to think of me as a physical player who slips blocks and plays side-to-side, but can also come down and lay the boom. That’s something I pride myself on. I think coaches can see that when they see the film.
Q: Your brother, Max, is a couple of years older than you. He’s been with the Texans for a while now. What type of advice has he given you along the way?
A: He went through this process a few years ago and his biggest thing is: you’ve got to be patient. It’s a long process. It’s a waiting game. You can’t control everything. You can only control what you can control. That’s kind of how I view the process. I can’t wait till the end of April to see where I end up and I’ll be excited to go out and perform wherever I’m at.
Q: Talk about your former coach Mark Dantonio. I know he can seem like a very stern type from afar, but you realize just how brilliant he is whenever you hear him speak. What was it like playing under him?
A: Well, he’s a stern guy too up close, I’ll tell you that. But, he’s also a great coach to have; I loved him. Every day, he would come in with a message about something that we wanted to focus on. He would show us a video of something to get us pumped up. The guy truly loves the game of football.
He loves coming to practice; he loves hanging out with us and he just wants to win. That’s what it all comes down to. This last season, we were losing games and it was really taking a toll on him. He obviously didn’t like that.
He’s taken that attitude to this offseason and he’s telling the guys that it’s not going to happen again and he’s really put them through a tough offseason, but I think they’ll reap the rewards from that. Overall, he’s one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever had. I had a great time with him.
Q: So, you’ve been through the process and you’re now only a couple of weeks away from draft weekend. What are your expectations? Do you have a range of what rounds you might get selected in?
A: It’s impossible to answer that because you never really know. Things have happened over the past few years that have been hard to make sense out of. So, it’s kind of hard, but in my situation, whether I get drafted or not, I’m excited to go with a team, get to camp and do the best that I can. So, I’m just excited for that part.
Q: Ok Riley, it’s that time in the interview where I’ll ask you a few non-football and light-hearted questions to wrap things up. The first thing I want to know is what is your favorite meal?
A: Anything barbeque. Barbequed chicken, barbequed pulled pork…anything like that.
Q: What is your favorite movie of all time?
A: Saving Private Ryan is one of my favorites.
Q: What is your preferred family activity when all the Bulloughs get together?
A: I can say that we’re very competitive at Ping-Pong. That’s something that we have in our basement and things get really heated. If Max ever loses, there’s probably going to be a fight.
Q: Do you have a favorite NFL team?
A: It was more so we were Michigan State fans. If I had to pick, I would have to say the Lions. They were in-state and all my buddies were fans of them.
Q: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
A: I can tell you one guy I remember watching was Josh Thornhill, a linebacker. There’s a few other guys. Mainly Michigan State guys.
Q: Who is your favorite non-football athlete?
A: LeBron (James) because he’s in the Midwest and I love the way he plays and the fact that he has so many haters, but always goes out and performs.
Q: What three or four words would best describe you, Riley Bullough, as an individual, a player and a teammate?
A: Competitive, tough and hard-working. These are the three that define me and I think if you ask any of my teammates and coaches, I think they’ll say something similar to that.
Ralph: Thanks for giving me a few minutes. Best of luck the rest of the way, man.
Riley: Awesome. Appreciate it, Ralph.
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