It’s been more than eight years since Riley Martello was a fiery linebacker at Bozeman High School, but he’s the same intense kid now as he was then.
“I still try to bring the juice. I talk about bringing the juice every day, because I enjoy football,” said Martello, who was recently named the defensive line coach at Loras College, an NCAA Division III program in Dubuque, Iowa. “I enjoy coaching it, I enjoy playing it, I enjoy being around it, so I bring a lot of passion every day to work, because I don’t really see it as work because I’m doing something I love every single day. That’s definitely something I keep with me, is bringing that passion and real energy, whether that’s practice, lifting, games. I’m going to bring a lot of energy and a lot of passion to football, for sure.”
But a lot has changed for Martello, a former all-state player at Bozeman High. He spent six years at Montana Western, using redshirt and medical redshirt seasons, and was one of the Bulldogs’ unquestioned leaders during his time on the field. He turned that passion for playing the game into coaching the game in 2019.
Martello started his coaching career filling a variety of roles on coach Ryan Nourse’s staff at Western before leaving Dillon to reunite with Troy Purcell at Carroll College. Purcell, who coached Martello at Bozeman High, took over the Fighting Saints’ program in December of 2018.
“It means everything,” Martello said of having Nourse and Purcell as mentors in the coaching profession. He also mentioned Western defensive coordinator Rob Goode and Montana State special teams coordinator B.J. Robertson, who was previously the head coach at Western from 2013-15.
“Those guys taught me a lot about football, but they also taught me a lot about life and battling adversity and teaching a lot of life lessons through the game of football,” Martello continued. “I try to use those lessons I learned from them and try to keep on trickling that down to the guys I’m coaching over here in Dubuque, Iowa. It’s no different, I’m trying to keep those core values the same from what I’ve learned to guys that I’m coaching now.”
Those connections helped Martello land at Loras after a year that more-or-less put his burgeoning coaching career on pause. With the pandemic postponing the Frontier Conference’s fall season and Martello’s first with the Saints, he took the opportunity to work on himself. He watched film and critiqued the game from different angles, and also studied recruits from Utah and western Montana.
Now, though, he’ll have more coaching responsibilities than ever with his first full-time position on the staff at Loras. The Duhawks play in the American Rivers Conference, which includes eight Iowa-based programs and one from Lincoln, Neb.
“That’s definitely something new for me, for sure, (after) living in Montana for 25 years,” Martello said. “I just want to experience new things. There’s so much to America, there’s so much to college football, I think the more people you know, the more people you can connect with, (the better).”
Martello and the Duhawks are aiming to get some practice and game time in this spring. Loras, which went 5-5 in 2019, is slated to kick off its spring schedule on March 27.
“I just want to be the best wherever I go, and right now that’s in Dubuque, Iowa, coaching for Loras College, and that’s all I’m focused on, is making Loras the best football team I can,” Martello said. “Whatever happens in the future happens, but for now I’m going to give these guys all I got. My wife (former Montana Western basketball player Taylor (Howlett) Martello) is right next to me, moved to Dubuque, and she supports my decisions and we’re kind of in this together. Whatever happens after this happens, but for now I’m going to do the best I can where I’m at.”