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Freshman running back Ronnie Rivers (20) runs with the ball against Incarnate Word on Sept. 2, 2017 at Bulldog Stadium. Fresno State won 66-0. (Megan Trindad/The Collegian)

Ronnie Rivers looks to create his own history

Ronnie Rivers isn’t worried about his father’s storied athletic shadow. The Bulldogs running back wants to build his own legacy.  

Rivers father, Ron Rivers, played for the Bulldogs from 1991 to 1993 and is Fresno State’s second all-time leading rusher with 3,473 yards, behind only Robbie Rouse’s 4,647 yards.

“Of course I want to excel and do things better than he did, so then I can have a little bragging rights between me and my dad,” Rivers said. “But I just got to stay humble throughout the whole thing and just do me. Work on myself and don’t worry about what everyone else is saying.”

The freshman said he enjoys the challenge of living up to his father’s standards. He welcomes it, being well aware that allowing pressure like that to materialize into something negative could only serve to hurt his performance.

“I’m not scared of [the legacy]. I like that. I’m just ready,” he said.

Rivers was preparing for this challenge well before he put on a Fresno State uniform. He said he has always had the goal of surpassing his father in rushing yards. Even as a child he would tell the elder Rivers of his goal.

Rivers will never be able to escape the comparisons to his father. Their similar running forms made sure of that.

“Ever since youth football, people have been saying that I run just like my dad, so I guess it’s just in my DNA,” he said.

But Rivers is not his father, aside from their names and the running form. The younger Rivers is a different player and man.

For starters, the true freshman believes himself to be more agile than his father. It’s an observation that the younger Rivers loves to mention during competitive banter between father and son.

“I always tell him that my moves are better than his. That’s one thing that we joke about,” Rivers said. “We’re always ripping each other and joking around.”

Fun is a common theme with Rivers. When he’s with his father, he’s having fun. When he’s on the field – practice or game – he’s having fun.

As for his time off the field, he’s having fun there, too. Video game NBA 2K18 is currently fueling the fun tank for Rivers and his teammates.

“We all got our little MyPlayers, so we link up; we play games against each other; we play games on teams. We’re just gelling,” he said.

But Rivers knows when it’s time for fun, and when it’s time to work, whether that be on the field or in the classroom. He said he felt like the athletic and academic challenges of the collegiate level have helped him realize where his primary focus needs to be.

“I’ve matured a little bit more, in terms of being more focused and working harder,” he said of the impact the first month at Fresno State has had.

Rivers was forced to mature quickly. He was thrust into the starting position as a freshman. But he seems to have adapted to the role well, he said.

“I think I’ve had a pretty smooth transition. There’s been some things that I had to pick up and learn quick, but I think I did a nice job handling everything,” Rivers said.

The load in the backfield has been eased by the running-back-by-committee system that the team has used this season. The true freshman shares the workload with Jordan Mims, Josh Hokit and Dejonte O’Neal.

This system has led the four running backs to develop a special bond that Rivers described as a brotherhood.

“Those are my brothers right there,” he said of the other three running backs. “Coach is trying to let us all eat, and I like that. I think we got a good group this year, and I think we can do big things in that running back position.”

Rivers has rushed for 118 yards this year. He will try to add to that total Saturday against Nevada.

“We’re feeling good going into this week. We stepped it up,” he said. “We just want to practice hard and go out on Saturday and get a W.”