With his USC Trojan teammates, Rudy Riska said goodbye to the school he won the Heisman Trophy with. Players present and past at the ceremony shared their favorite memories of a great player, great man and great father and grandfather.
Tara Colon played in the backfield with Rudy in 1966 and is now in medical school at UC San Diego.
“He was an outstanding and unselfish player. He had good hands and was a good runner as well,” said Colom.
Riska and teammate Mike Bradley shared their memories about the famous October game in 1966 when the Trojans beat the University of Texas, 52-48, in the greatest college football game of all time.
Bradley, who was the quarterback for Texas’s team, was relieved to lose the game but not happy to see his good friend fall to the ground after being tackled at the end of the game.
“Mike and I were inseparable. Rudy was like my brother,” said Bradley.
During that game he remembers the rain turning into hail and the workers toiling under the stadium lights trying to shine a light under Rudy to shine it back in the opposite direction.
“I am glad we didn’t win,” he says with a laugh.
Riska’s life after that game has been unique. It’s now an honor for all USC football players to visit his family, which lives in Sebring, Florida, as part of the celebration of Rudy’s life.
After winning the Heisman, Rudy signed a football pro day contract with the Detroit Lions, which in those days earned just $1500 for football players.
He gave the money to his college coach, who used the money to pay off debt from a family accident.
“That really boosted his confidence. He never lost his desire to achieve that final goal,” said his daughter Jeannie Riska.
His award and fame soon changed his life, which once included work as a gas station attendant.
“When Rudy got that, he just got angry,” said his daughter.
Riska went on to be president of Realtor Inc. which still exists.
Riska remained close to his beloved Trojan team for years, which is why many of his former teammates and friends couldn’t help but share stories from those days with Fox News.
“Rudy’s an iconic legend in that era. We miss him so much,” said former quarterback Steve Shiffert.
Riska worked tirelessly for a wide variety of non-profit causes and is also a legend in Sebring for giving away almost all his money to area causes.
When asked about that life philosophy, he said, “all I’ve ever had was one thing in my heart.”
“He just wanted to give and it went well beyond and gave great value to the people of the south Florida area.”
“I’m thankful for his generous heart and his generosity,” said his daughter Jeannie.
Riska won the Heisman in 1951 and 1957 and earned five letters at USC.
Riska suffered a stroke in 1999 and his daughter Jeannie kept his donations in his estate.
Riska was an avid philanthropist who helped local charities throughout south Florida.
Riska is survived by his son John Riska, his daughter Jeannie, his wife Sadie, his step-son Christopher and three grandchildren.
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