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Riley Bullough is surprise star of ‘Hard Knocks’

Former Spartan linebacker became an early fan favorite on HBO’s hit NFL show

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Minicamp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, HBO’s “Hard Knocks” creates stars out of a player that is otherwise unknown to the masses. Through the first episode, former Spartans linebacker Riley Bullough looks like he may be that player.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are full of big name players – Jameis Winston, Gerald McCoy, Mike Evans – but in the new season’s first episode, the show took out a special chunk of time to recognize Bullough. Although things didn’t start off the most complimentary.

In the linebacker’s first appearance on camera, a fan asked to take his picture – then immediately asked Bullough who he was. That clip was immediately followed by one of Bullough defending himself against one of his teammates who said the linebacker looked like Joe Dirt.

Although, to be fair...

Not even Bullough could deny the resemblance. After taking a second look, Bullough said he can’t blame the comparison. Although, running back Blake Simms, who gave Bullough the nickname, said he may need to change it to Triple H or Kid Rock.

Bullough became one of the most entertaining players in the episode when all of the players were required to sing in front of the rest of the team. The former Spartans star decided to sing, yes sing, Fetty Wap’s “679,” which is a rap song.

Surprisingly, especially to those watching live in the Buccaneers room, Bullough nailed it. He even drew a big reaction from Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter.

It wasn’t just Bullough’s singing ability that impressed Koetter in the “Hard Knocks” episode. The head coach specifically called out Bullough in a team meeting for being a team leader, despite being the third-string middle linebacker.

During the episode, Bullough said that he was surprised to hear his name called out during the meeting. After it aired, he told the media that Koetter’s comments were the high-point for him so far in camp.

“I've been working hard, and bringing passion and energy to the game is what I pride myself on. For him to notice that and say that in a team meeting meant a lot,” Bullough said.

One of the main reasons Bullough has been able to grab the coaching staff’s attention is his constant communication. The linebacker is shown talking all over the field, calling out assignments, directing other players and even a little trash talk. Although, trash talk may not work that well against tackling dummies.

Attention in the first episode of a “Hard Knocks” season doesn’t always lead to a happy ending for fringe players like Bullough. Throughout the show’s history, they have become pretty good at singling out players who would end up falling short of making the team.

But more attention for a player like Bullough is always good. Even if he doesn’t stick with Tampa Bay, a much bigger segment of the league is now aware of what he can bring to a team.

For now, Bullough is just enjoying the limelight. His Twitter following has already jumped 400 people. But he’s hoping one person specifically will jump in his DMs.

“I’m hoping that [Fetty Wap] DMs me here soon so we can get together.”