Editor's Note: This story was written by Alex Muzii, Marist Sports Information intern and contributor to The Circle. This story also appears in this week's edition of The Circle.
Just like any college football player, Marist red-shirt senior Michael Rios has always dreamed about playing in the NFL. His dream is looking more like a reality after having a stellar career for the Red Foxes. Growing up in Miami, Fla., which is considered a breeding ground for elite college prospects and NFL players, Rios has competed against top talent all of his life.
Rios originally committed to Florida International his senior season, but with NCAA sanctions hitting the program the team had to cut scholarships. It put Rios in a really tough situation because it was so close to signing day and all the other schools recruiting him filled up their scholarships. Luckily for Rios, Marist had a spot to fill at the wide receiver position and were very interested in the speedy Miami wide receiver. Taking a late visit, Rios immediately fell in love with what Marist had to offer.
"At first I was really upset that I couldn't attend FIU and stay close to home” said Rios, "After visiting Marist and seeing what kind of academics they had to offer and the opportunity to contribute right away on offense and special teams really got me excited, so I committed to the Red Foxes."
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Rios was primarily a special teams player his first two years, blocking four kicks. Rios exploded into the Pioneer League in 2010 appearing in 11 games, leading the team in yards per catch (29.2). He was second in receiving yards (642), receiving touchdowns (five), and was third in receptions (28). He had three games with at least 100 yards receiving. What really stood out was four receiving touchdowns of 60 yards or more.
Rios was poised to continue solid play in 2011 for his senior season when he started the season with three catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns at Sacred Heart. Two week later, Rios suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to sit out the remainder of the season.
"The hamstring injury was a blessing in disguise; it gave me more time to prepare and it also changed my perception on life. It was a preventable injury and because of it I don't take my health for granted anymore," Rios said, "Sitting out the whole season was tough, but it made me want to work even harder and appreciate everything about football."
Rios bounced back in 2012, having arguably one of the best seasons for a WR in Marist history. He set single-game, single-season and career records in 2012 at Marist. With 17 career receiving touchdowns, he broke the mark of 16 previously held by James LaMacchia. Rios also broke two of LaMacchia's single-season records with 1,173 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns prior to this season; Marist's single-game record for receiving yards was 195, turned in by LaMacchia against Jacksonville in 2009. Rios had the first two 200-yard receiving games in program history this season, with 244 against Davidson.
He finished first in the Pioneer League for receiving yards per game recording (50) catches averaging 23.3 yards per catch. He led the league in touchdown catches and had a Pioneer record 97 yard TD reception. His staggering play helped him earn unanimours First Team All-PFL honors.”
"Mike is a game-changing wide receiver that defenses will change their coverages to double him where ever he lines up, he's also an important special teams player with his ability to block kicks and cover punts.” said Head Coach Jim Parady, "He has top level physical skills that give him an advantage in single match ups and an ability to stretch defenses vertically.”
There was no resting after the season for Rios; he immediately started training for the NFL back in his hometown of Miami. He has been training at Bommarito Performance which is one of the country's top training academies for athletes.
They have trained numerous high-profile athletes such as Super Bowl winning wide receivers Torrey Smith & Anquan Boldin, running backs Frank Gore (49ers), Matt Forte (Bears) and many more, according to the organization's website. Elite NFL prospects come through the program every year to train for the combine and their pro days.
National Football League teams such as the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, and Chicago Bears have been in contact with Rios and his agent due to the impressive numbers that Rios demonstrated at his Pro Day at FIU. He has had private workouts for the Dolphins and Bears. Although numerous NFL Mock Draft websites don't have Rios being selected in this upcoming draft, he still seems upbeat and confident that he will make an NFL roster.
"My workout for the Dolphins was a great experience; it was fun to compete with some familiar faces I've been training with and some new faces that I've seen on ESPN.” said Rios. “I was able to showcase my abilities and prove to the Dolphins that my pro day success wasn't a fluke."
This year’s NFL Draft goes from April 25-27.