QB Rivera set to end DSU career Saturday at Howard

DOVER — Gilbert Rivera is leaving Delaware State University the same way he came in — as the starting quarterback when no one expected him to be.

Rivera has started the last two contests, including the home finale for the Hornets. The senior’s last collegiate game will be Saturday at 1 p.m. when the winless Hornets (0-7 MEAC, 0-10 overall) travel to Howard University (1-6, 1-9).

It is the final chapter of a career full of twists and turns.

In a lot of ways, it is a surprise Rivera is still even on the team, much less the starter. There are only six seniors remaining on Delaware State’s roster because most of Rivera’s class elected to leave the program as second-year coach Kenny Carter has tried to rebuild through recruiting.

Every year he’s been at Delaware State, QB Gilbert Rivera was projected to be a backup. Every year he wound up as the starter at some point. (DSU sports information)

Every year he’s been at Delaware State, QB Gilbert Rivera was projected to be a backup. Every year he wound up as the starter at some point. (DSU sports information)

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity,” Rivera said. “When we got a new coaching staff and they decided to keep me, that meant a lot to me. I made sure I gave it all I have for my teammates and my coaches.”

Every year he’s been at Delaware State, Rivera was projected to be a backup. Every year he wound up as the starter at some point.

There was his first season when he arrived on campus in early August 2014 after transferring from East Los Angeles Community College. He had only played in four games of junior college football at that point in his career and was slated to be the No. 2 behind Esayah Obado.

But Obado suffered a season-ending injury the week before the season. Since all the other quarterbacks besides Obado from the year before had transferred, Rivera was left as the lone healthy quarterback on the roster.

Rivera was benched in favor of wide receiver Marlon Kelly at times in 2014 as the staff tried to turn Kelly, who played QB in high school, into a dual-threat college quarterback. It didn’t work and Rivera eventually won the job back and finished with six touchdowns on the season.

The Hornets finished 2-10 and the coach who brought Rivera to DSU, Kermit Blount, was let go.

In Carter’s first season, Obado returned fully healthy. He was named the starter in preseason camp only to be injured once again during the season, leaving Rivera to start five games before being benched for freshman Kobie Lain in the final games of the year.

This year, Carter announced Rivera was the No. 3 quarterback, despite having the most experience. Rivera was behind Lain and Dan Epperson who were expected to share the job at the beginning of the season. After hearing this, Rivera did not want to transfer like others had done.

“I trust what they’re doing here,” Rivera said. “I know at the end of the day coach Carter knows what he’s doing. We always say trust in the process.”

“It’s not about me,” he added. “It’s about winning, If they feel like another person gives them a shot to win then that’s what I’ll go with. Just like when we had Dan or Kobie in there, I backed them up because I know every player is important.”

Carter said he is thankful for the six seniors who did stay with him — Rivera, wide receiver Aris Scott, center Ernest Mengoni, linebacker Rashawn Barrett and cornerback Gary Melton Jr., who will all be suiting up for the final time on Saturday.

“They helped establish the foundation,” Carter said. “I’ll always be grateful for them. A lot of people from their class are not here because they either didn’t want to do it or couldn’t do it. So I tip my hat to those guys who stayed.”

When talking about Rivera, Carter said he is most proud of the work he has accomplished in the classroom. Rivera has turned himself into a Dean’s List student and will graduate this year.

“He’s a great kid,” Carter said. “He’s got tremendous character and works his butt off. He’ll be a really good citizen and do some positive things in life.”

Rivera received his first start of the season against North Carolina Central two weeks ago and passed for 180 yards with a touchdown on 13-of-21 attempts. He threw for 224 yards and a touchdown this past Saturday against North Carolina A&T.

Rivera would love to end his career with a victory over Howard, the only team the Hornets were able to beat a year ago. It could be a silver lining for this young team, with more than 50 first-year players and Rivera hopes they can be inspired to have more wins in the upcoming years.

“This team is only going to get better,” Rivera said. “I kind of hate that I’m going to be gone. But I’m happy for my teammates and coach Carter. He’s been doing a good job recruiting and I’m excited for their future.”

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