Doug Riesenberg doesn’t talk about football. He doesn’t watch it much. He doesn’t even wear his 1991 Super Bowl XXV ring; it sits in a safety deposit box in California.
At Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis, Ore., where Riesenberg has taught for a decade, most students are unaware their geometry teacher is a former Super Bowl champion.
“The kids are oblivious,” Riesenberg said. “I always have the kids say, ‘Do you coach?’ ”
Four decades ago, Riesenberg was one of those “kids,” a soon-to-be freshman, making a move with his family from his hometown in Carroll, Iowa, to Moscow.
“We got into the house two days before fall practice,” he said.
At Moscow High School, Riesenberg would go on to be an all-state player on both sides of the ball, and in basketball.
“I couldn’t throw a baseball worth beans, so I tried to throw a disc instead,” he said.
He threw that disc well enough for three state titles in the discus.
To Riesenberg, basketball was “what kids did after football” and track and field was an excuse to workout with late longtime Moscow football and track coach, Doug Fisher — football was his favorite.
“I was just this big goofy, gangly kid, and it was a natural extension of going and burning off energy,” Riesenberg said. “I turned out to be OK at it. Kids generally go to things they are good at.”
Coming off a 2-7 season his sophomore year, Riesenberg helped the Bears to a state championship in football in November 1981. The Bears and their air raid offense rolled defending state champion Madison 31-3 for the upset.
Nearly 40 years later, sitting at the desk in classroom D-71, he still remembers the score.
“We just bought in ... I don’t think anyone had any idea what would happen,” Riesenberg said.
Riesenberg went on to play in college at the University of California and finished his college tenure on offense protecting the quarterback.
He was the last pick in the sixth round of the 1987 NFL Draft, selected 168th by the defending champion New York Giants.
Out of 145 games, Riesenberg played for the Giants, he made 132 consecutive starts, including Super Bowl XXV, where New York would hang on against the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in Tampa, Fla.
“It was very surreal — media day, seeing the patch on your uniform,” Riesenberg recalled.
In the third quarter, the Giants offense put together a nearly 10-minute scoring drive that helped put the game away.
“We ran it down their throats,” Riesenberg said.
The Giants would hold on as time would expire on a Bills field goal that sailed wide-right.
The further he gets away from the Super Bowl, the smaller the moment has got.
Moments like marrying his wife, having three children, watching them grow and receiving an education all find themselves perched above the Super Bowl XXV victory now.
“It wasn’t the highlight of my life, but I’m happy we won,” Riesenberg said. “At the time, winning the Super Bowl was definitely a professional highlight; however, that was a very long time ago. In retrospect, the journey was more important than the actual result. I learned how to prepare and never give in.”
If undrafted, Riesenberg said he is unsure if he ever would have pursued a career in the NFL.
“It was never really a dream of mine,” Riesenberg said of professional football.
While other players had “ability” and skill, Riesenberg said for him, “it was more the effort.”
“I just believed we could line up and smash it one more time,” he said.
His coach at Moscow High School, Erik Bjorkman, would likely disagree.
In January 1991, before Super Bowl XXV, Bjorkman called Riesenberg the “second-best football player ever produced in Idaho,” behind Vandal great Jerry Kramer.
Riesenberg was inducted into the Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame last month.
His football career ended when he suffered a knee injury in 1996 after being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Today, at age 53, the offensive tackle who never had a surgery said he’s mostly healthy.
“I’m still working everyday, teaching kids and they don’t say I’m forgetting a bunch of stuff,” he said. “Working with 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds keeps you young.”
He said he has some arthritis in the knee he injured, which is worse when it’s cold.
“I get up and walk around. It’s not too bad,” he said.
And all these years later Riesenberg hasn’t forgotten the Palouse.
He said he still visits Moscow every few months to see his mother. His father, Louis Riesenberg, a longtime professor at the University of Idaho, died in 2014.
Josh Babcock can be reached at (208) 883-4638, or by email to email@example.com.