Tragedy, consistently, has found Chris Riverso.
Then again, Riverso likewise has consistently found solace on the football field and a determination to make a career on the gridiron.
Now, after losing a cousin, Joe Riverso, during the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, later enduring a damaging back injury during an Interstate automobile accident and then also losing his father, Chris Riverso has found a path back near his Dutchess County, New York, roots.
Riverso has accepted the position of director of football operations at prestigious Fordham University.
“Football was always kind of a passion,” Riverso told FootballScoop. “Joe died in the 9-11 attacks, he was in the Towers (where he worked as a broker for Cantor Fitzgerald). He made such a big impact on people, and I kind of just wanted to replicate that. He loved football, I love football and I loved it as a cool way to give back to people.
“I was only 10 when Joe died, but he was kind of like a larger than life guy. They still hold memorial golf outing for him every May, and they have a memorial football game there every year (at Archbishop Stepinac High School); the school still likes to honor him as best they can. You ask anybody about him, he was just such a big personality and caring guy. He just really wanted to help people succeed. And that’s what I want to do.”
Chris Riverso, whose father actually attended Fordham Prep, had designs on a collegiate playing career – on South Beach at the University of Miami.
When that longshot proved impossible, he immediately brushed off the end of his playing career and jumped headlong into an opportunity to help then-Hurricanes coach Al Golden’s Miami program.
“I went to Miami for academic reasons, and wanted to walk on there,” Riverso said. “I just wanted to help out as best I could, so I sent an email to football operations and asked if I could help out.”
What Riverso got was a succinct reply: show up the next morning, at 6 bells.
“That’s how I got started,” he said.
Not that Riverso had any kind of gilded path after that start at Miami. Amidst his time at ‘The U,’ Riverso lost his father. The grief too much, he returned home to New York where he launched his on-field coaching path at Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose, N.Y.
“After my father passed away in 2015, I couldn’t do classes, it was just too much,” Riverso shared. “I really loved it. But when I went back to Florida, to go back to Miami the next year, Coach Golden was gone and there was a whole new staff.”
But with a door at Miami temporarily closed, Riverso found another one opened at nearby Florida International.
“One of my teachers was Dave Scott, who was the assistant athletics director at Florida International, and had worked with Butch Davis,” he said. “He had been a recruiting coordinator for Coach Davis, and I asked him, ‘Is there any way I can get involved?’ So he set me up with Kenny Holmes, I started working as a volunteer and that got parlayed into a spot at Christopher Columbus High School, where we made a state championship run and I was a defensive assistant.”
With an semester at Syracuse in the offing as part of his final leg at Miami, Riverso managed to gain an internship in football operations with the Orange. He also escaped what could have been a vastly more catastrophic automobile accident.
Riverso was traveling on I-84, near Danbury, Connecticut, when he was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler. That accident spelled the end of Riverso’s on-field coaching – the back pain too much to sustain all the necessary movement and instruction on the field – but opened anew the opportunity to help in a football program aside from coaching.
“I got rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, and I guess (doctors) call it facet joint syndrome,” Riverso said. “It was really bad pain in my lower back, and it made it hard to demonstrate techniques, do the things I needed to do on the field.
“But I count my blessings. It could have been a lot worse.”
After his time expired at Syracuse, Riverso briefly worked for the CBS-owned 247Sports as a recruiting analyst, but he wasted little time in a return to college football. He was named Grambling University’s director of football operations last September.
“The attention to detail stuff, my brain has always been my best asset,” Riverso said. “The operations stuff is like things you do in a normal office setting but with a football twist. It’s using my brains, just God-given intelligence, in a football setting.
“What I want to do is take away the work these coaches would otherwise have to do, so that they can just focus on the coaching.”