|Date of birth:April 7, 1961|
|Place of birth: Crystal City, Texas|
|High School: San Antonio (TX) Jefferson|
|College: Texas Tech|
|NFL Draft: 1983 / Round: 1 / Pick: 21|
|Debuted in 1983 for the Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Last played in 1983 for the Pittsburgh Steelers|
|*Pittsburgh Steelers ( 1983)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|* Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year (1982)|
|College Football Hall of Fame|
Gabriel Rivera (born April 7, 1961 in Crystal City, Texas) is a former American college and professional football player who was a defensive tackle in the National Football League (NFL) for a single season in 1983. Rivera played college football for Texas Tech where he earned All-American honors in 1982. Rivera was a first round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rivera attended Texas Tech University, and played for the Texas Tech Red Raiders football team from 1979 to 1982. At 6'3" and 230 pounds, he was recruited as a tight end and linebacker before growing to between 270-300 pounds. Despite his weight, Rivera was able to complete a 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds as a noseguard. While at Texas Tech, he earned the nickname "Señor Sack".
Rivera finished his four year career at Texas Tech with 321 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 11 pass deflections, and 6 fumble recoveries. His 1982 total of 105 tackles still holds the school record for most tackles by a defensive tackle. Rivera garnered significant national attention following a 10-3 loss against the #1 ranked 1982 Washington Huskies football team, in which he logged 10 tackles, 4 pass deflections, 4 quarterback pressures, and a sack.
In 1980, Rivera earned honorable mention All-American honors as a sophomore. In 1982, and was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American as a senior defensive tackle in 1983. Additionally, Rivera was named the Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and would later be named to the Southwest Conference All-Decade team.
He was named to the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame in May 2012.
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Rivera in the first round (21st pick overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft. Rivera's selection was notable because the Steelers decided to pass on hometown hero and University of Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino as heir apparent to Terry Bradshaw. Head coach Chuck Noll chose to rebuild from the defensive side as the team did a decade earlier with "Mean Joe" Greene. Rivera was considered to be one of the fastest defensive linemen coming out of college.
As the 1983 season progressed, Rivera slowly began to come on, getting 2 sacks in his first 6 games played. But tragedy struckTemplate:Editorializing on October 20, 1983, when Rivera was paralyzed in a drunk driving car wreck. The then-22 year-old was treated for head, neck, chest and abdominal injuries, as well as significant memory loss. The accident occurred at 9:00 p.m. in Ross Township, a northern suburb of Pittsburgh. At the time, Gabriel was married to Kimberly Covington; they had son Timothy Rivera three weeks later, on November 11, 1983.
- D. Russo, Ralph (December 4, 2012). "Texas Tech’s Gabe Rivera enters College Hall of Fame 29 years after crash". The Washington Times. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/4/techs-gabe-rivera-enters-college-hall-of-fame-29-y/?page=all. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Williams, Don (May 15, 2012). "Former Texas Tech DL Gabe Rivera named to 2012 class for College Football Hall of Fame". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. http://lubbockonline.com/sports-red-raiders-football/2012-05-15/former-texas-tech-dl-gabe-rivera-named-2012-class-college. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Texas Tech Hall of Honor". Texas Tech University. http://www.texastech.com/trads/hoh-qt.html. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Elway to Marino". 30 for 30. ESPN. 2013-04-23.
- Vaclav Jáchim (May 20, 2012). "Starkey: Gabe Rivera finds peace". Trib Live. http://triblive.com/home/1821676-74/rivera-says-starkey-watts-lucky-accident-alive-antonio-car-finds#axzz2RRMCP6vM. Retrieved April 24, 2013.