LSU senior inside linebacker Duke Riley will replace his usual No. 40 with 4 tomorrow in the Buffalo Wild Wings Sugar Bowl, as a tribute to the late Joe McKnight.
Riley, who ranks second in the team with 85 tackles, was recently named LSU’s most valuable player for the 2016 season in vote of his teammates. McKnight served as a mentor and role model for Riley, along with many other students who followed in his footsteps at John Curtis.
“I lost a brother and someone I always looked up to,” Riley said about wearing the No. 4 jersey against Louisville. “Joe was someone I grew up watching, someone that was my biggest role model. People say legends never die so I’m wearing this No. 4 jersey for Joe McKnight (tomorrow) against Louisville.
“Joe meant everything to me. Honestly, I wanted to be a baseball player and then I saw what he could do with a football and how he could change the view of kids my age with a football in his hand. I know football meant everything to him. It was his life and he made football my life.
“This is honor to be able to do this. I’m so thankful for Coach ‘O’ (Orgeron) and the staff for giving me opportunity to wear this number for my brother who will be watching down on us. I’m going to give everything that I have for him and for LSU.”
Riley, who is a four-year letterwinner for the Tigers, has worn No. 40 for every contest of his 49-game career with the Tigers.
McKnight, of course, was a high school legend in Louisiana at John Curtis Christian School, where Riley played as well. He was gunned down on the West Bank of New Orleans in a road rage incident earlier in December.
Very cool gesture on Riley’s part, and a heckuva way to end his career with LSU, regardless of how the game turns out.