Having made it all the way to the Division III Final Four in each of the past two seasons, the second-ranked Linfield Wildcats are back on the prowl to improve upon their NCAA record with a 61st consecutive winning season.
Linfield's third year starting quarterback, Sam Riddle, is beyond grateful to succeed in the "Catdome", but he never envisioned attending the college in McMinnville until a 31-hour train trip alone from Grand Forks, North Dakota.
"It was definitely a crazy month," Riddle said. "One that I will never forget but one that I definitely don't want to have to go through again."
Riddle's rough month was really a turbulent year for the star quarterback from Hillsboro's Century High School, who walked away from an 80-percent paid ride to play Division I football for the University of North Dakota.
"It was frustrating for my family, for me to pass up such a huge opportunity," said Riddle.
The thought of leaving behind a then 2-month-old firstborn son, Mason, and the love of his life who's now his wife Briahnna? Forget it.
"That first night driving there with my dad and my sister, I knew immediately I wasn't going to be able to do it," Riddle said. "I knew probably the night before."
When one door closes, another opens, and opportunity knocked at D-3 Linfield College in the fall of 2013.
"It's not easy, but I think the whole Linfield community makes it easier than it is," said Riddle. "It's not really that hard finding a babysitter around here in McMinnville even though we are 45 minutes away from our family."
Don't let the 21-year-old fool you – it's a challenge to balance family, football and higher learning.
"It's definitely hard but just knowing that bedtime is soon," said Riddle.
Pushing through to bedtime – it's what all parents do and you wouldn't change a moment.
"It's not the end of the world, you aren't going to be working in a fast food restaurant the rest of your life," Riddle said.
It'll be two years this January when he married his high school girlfriend, Bri.
"He's gotten pretty domestic," she said.
Riddle said, "I was just a bowl of cereal, Easy Mac kind of guy. Scrambled eggs, Top Ramen all that stuff, but I bit my tongue and got the Pinterest app, got the recipes."
The newlyweds added pins to their controlled chaos with the birth of little Henry five months ago.
While Riddle may be missing out on some of the true college experience, he is missing nothing in the true experience of life.
"I learned at the age of 17 and 18 that I was going to be missing out on a ton," he said.
The business management major is major dad in the 'Catdome'.
"I am the dad, literally and figuratively, everyone calls me dad," he said. "I make it a point from day one, especially with the incoming freshmen, if you guys ever need anything come to me. I know it's going to be weird talking about your girlfriend to some guy who has two kids, what does he know? I feel like I haven't gone on a date or flirted with a girl for years."
Quarterbacks get a limited time in the pocket on game day, and it's those slim pockets of the day in which the Riddles can enjoy their uninterrupted quality time.
"They are very short," Riddle said. "Once I am sitting down on the couch with Bri watching TV or just talking about classes or what went on during the day or how practice went, before you know it … see you later."
He added, "Being able to spend every day with these guys and having my best friends that I envision being my best friends for the rest of my life, I couldn't really picture it but I am sure glad that they are alive, we're alive and we're healthy."
Riddle and second-ranked Linfield, with a 1-and-1 record, return to Maxwell Field for homecoming on Oct. 1 with Lewis and Clark.
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