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Riley Bullough embraces celebrity as Bucs' cuts loom

Riley Bullough is sixth on the team with eight tackles this preseason. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Riley Bullough is sixth on the team with eight tackles this preseason. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Aug. 28, 2017

Time to come clean, Joe Dirt.

It's time for linebacker Riley Bullough, who was given that nickname by teammate Blake Sims, to tell everyone what he really thinks of all the attention he's getting as the trash-talking, blonde hair-flowing star of "Hard Knocks."

"The one thing that's happened is more people notice me if I'm out in public maybe if I'm out getting a sandwich or something," Bullough said Monday. "More people say good luck and things like that. It's been great so far."

Bullough, who is sixth on the team with eight tackles this preseason, is expected to see some extended playing in the fourth preseason game when veterans and starters typically take a knee. The former Michigan State star made an instant impact, as captured by "Hard Knocks" cameras, on coaches and teammates. He was singled out in a team meeting by head coach Dirk Koetter for his heart and hustle.

"It was definitely unexpected, especially with it being in a team-meeting setting, me being an undrafted rookie," Bullough said. "But that's something I pride myself on, being the guy others can look to and being the vocal guy out there. That's something I've always done."

Bullough comes from a football family that all played at Michigan State. He followed brother Max there, and younger brother Byron is now a Spartans linebacker. His father Shane and uncle Chuck played there, and his grandfather Hank played for the Spartans and then the Packers in the 1950s and was head coach with the Bills in 1984-85.

"It helps a lot. I have been talking back and forth to my older brother Max every day," Bullough said. "He's been through it. The same stuff I'm going through."

Except his brother never garnered the kind of attention Bullough has from "Hard Knocks." Although his mother objected to Riley being named after the mullet-wearing janitor played by David Spade in the movie, "Joe Dirt," people refer to him that way in public and on social media.

"She just doesn't agree with it," Bullough said of his mom, who was featured with his father in episode two of "Hard Knocks." "She's not (ticked). She just thinks I look better than Joe Dirt."

Bullough admits there's been other adjustments to the NFL game. "There's a lot of things. Obviously, everyone at this level is a great player," he said. "Fast. Strong. Physical. So you've got to adjust to that. By the same token, I think I've played against some quality opponents in college to get me ready for this and that's been good for me so far."

The numbers aren't in Bullough's favor to earn a spot on the Bucs' 53-man roster. Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Kendell Beckwith are all starters. Adarius Glanton is the backup middle linebacker and started in Saturday's game against the Browns. Devante Bond, who has missed much of training camp with a knee injury, is a second-year player. That would leave Bullough or possibly Cameron Lynch trying to compete with him for the fifth linebacker spot.

Bullough could be signed to the Bucs practice squad if he is released and clears waivers.

"For me, I'm not looking at it that way," he said. "I'm trying to go out and play my best for the Bucs and other teams looking at me. You know, everything you do is on film, so I'm just trying to go out and play my best."

In a way, the national attention from "Hard Knocks" probably will keep him on the radar of other teams if he doesn't make the Bucs roster. And there may be other opportunities.

"Actually, I got a guy that Facebook-messaged me and said he was interested in doing a show about me," Bullough said. "He lives in Los Angeles. I haven't messaged him back yet, but I'm going to go and see what that's about."

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