December 25, 2006
Atlanta - It wasn't a Christmas miracle but it was close when Albany's Wayne Riles was able to suit up for Georgia Tech this season.
Riles was finally able to return to the field after having a back surgery, but the comeback will last for just this season. Wayne says the Jackets New Year's Day bowl game against West Virginia will be the final game of his college career.
Georgia Tech's season opening game against Notre Dame was the first time Wayne Riles had stepped on a football field for a game in three years.
After transferring to the Jackets from the University of Louisville, Riles had to have back surgery-- a procedure that at the time did not seem it would be that complicated.
Riles said, "You should be back on the field this year. You might miss one or two games."
Wayne actually missed all of the 2005 season, and with his rehabilitation going so slow it looked like he would never get to play for the Yellow Jackets.
"I get up in the mornings and I am in a lot of pain. I sit for while. I sit in class and it takes me awhile to get up and walk, I have a lot of leg pain and numbness," Riles said.
The hard work paid off and Wayne's back got well enough for him to play this year, even starting at tight end in the Virginia game.
But as the season went on, Wayne's back troubles returned, And with it, he was relegated to special teams duty. "It is frustrating to not be able to do what you were once able to do."
So frustrating that Wayne has decided that it is time to end his football career after this season.
The one thing he can say is that leaves the game knowing he did everything he could to play. "I was able to get back on the field and that was my ultimate goal."
Like the seniors on the Georgia Tech football team, Wayne's goal is to end his college career by beating West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.
"It is going to be fun. It is a great bowl we are going to have fun," Riles said.
Wayne is also through with his education, receiving his degree at Georgia Tech at the end of the fall semester.