Former Louisiana-Lafayette receiver Al Riles dies at 27

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Al Riles, former receiver for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, was shot and killed on Saturday night in Fort Worth, Texas. He was 27.

There are few details available about Riles’ death, but his mother, Diedra, has started a GoFundMe campaign to help her pay for her son’s funeral expenses.

“Unfortunately we were all hit with the heartbreaking news that this beautiful soul is no longer with us,” Diedra wrote on the GoFundMe. “He impacted every life he touched. Had a smile that could light up a room. A laugh that would fill the air with warmth. We lost a friend, a brother, a daughter lost her father, and a mother lost her son. A life gone too soon! He accomplished so much but was determined to do so much more and that was taken from him.”

Riles was a standout at Louisiana-Lafayette who made at least one catch in 29 straight games, a streak that lasted for two years. He finished his Louisiana-Lafayette career with 140 catches for 1,560 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also praised for his leadership, which former Cajuns offensive coordinator Jorge Munoz shared with the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.

“He brought the toughness to our receiving group, and to the team. Back then, (linebacker) Otha (Peters) probably was the representative for the defense while Al Riles probably was the representative of the offense, so if something had to be said, something had to be done, if there was an issue within the team, whether it was a bad game or if it was a work-ethic thing, both of those guys would be the ones to address the rest of the team, in a positive way, saying, 'Hey guys, this ain't good enough, we need to step it up.’”

In 2017 he signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent, but was waived after a month and never played for them. The same thing happened in 2018 when he was signed by the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the CFL.

September 24, 2016:  Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns wide receiver Al Riles (2) during the second half of the game between the Tulane and the Louisiana-Lafayette at Benson Field at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans, LA.  Tulane defeats Louisiana-Lafayette 41-39 in 4 overtimes.  (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Former UL receiver Al Riles was shot and killed in Fort Worth, Tex. on Saturday. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Friends remember Riles as a ‘passionate guy’

Former teammate Dominique Tovell told the Advocate that he remembers Riles as both passionate and dedicated.

“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.”

"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."

Former UL team pastor Eric Treuil told The Advocate that Riles’ life was just beginning, and it’s tragic that it was cut so short.

“To say that [he] 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.

Riles has a daughter, which he revealed in a 2016 Facebook post that also explained his background and his hopes and dreams for his future. The Advocate published the text of his post in full.

"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."

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