When man Riggins stated he wanted the round in critical year"s NFL playoffs, the Redskins went along, and he reeled in the Super key crown

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Monday night, Oct. 18, 1982. The NFL players Association win was 4 weeks old and also looked together though that would never end. America was finding out it could live without pro football, guards and tackles were becoming acquainted v the insurance money bucentregalilee.comness, and also the Washington Redskins' 33-year-old fullback, man Riggins, that hadn't worn pads because that a month, that hadn't also worked out more than as soon as or twice, had just played two games in two days.

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They had actually been billed as the NFLPA All-Star Games, and also they were the union's attempt to display the civilization it might play football all by itself. On Sunday in Washington, Riggins had actually turned in a complete afternoon's work for the NFC team. He climate had caught the red-eye to Los Angeles that night and suited increase for video game No. 2, in the L.A. Coliseum. Currently it was late, and also as the vehicle carrying Riggins earlier to his hotel crept with the deserted streets and also the glaze that sleeplessness cleared up over his brain, he to be suddenly aware that the very small and very crazy person centregalilee.comtting beside him in the backseat was digging him in the ribs v his elbow.


"Shot for shot, waddya say?" Louie Giammona, the 5'9" halfback and also special groups wacko then v the Eagles, to be saying to Riggins. Giammona was one of the 4 others who had played in both ends of the twin bill, however he to be just obtaining warmed up.


"What?" Riggins said.

"I'll trade you shot because that shot, an initial you hit me, then ns hit you, waddya say?"

"This," said Riggins, "isn't the method to success my friendship."

"O.K., climate you hit me, struggle me!" Giammona said, bouncing up and also down in the seat. "I don't mind. I love it."


"Well, Louie, I'll tell you what we'll do," Riggins said, brushing away the weariness because that a moment. "When we get up to the hotel room, we'll tape your ankles together and hang girlfriend from the ceiling upcentregalilee.comde down. Climate we'll take turns ucentregalilee.comng you for a heavy bag—if that's what you really want."

The two males in the front chair guffawed, Giammona calmed down, and also Riggins as soon as again rotate his fist to the darkened streets. Thirty-three year old, 10½ NFL seasons behind him, and here the was, gliding v the highways of Los Angeles on a trip from nowhere to nowhere. To be this really what he'd been destined for—an up-and-down career, never ever really focused, a call built much more on his wry and also cryptic comments off the field than his play on it?

The answer, the course, to be no. In the wake up of the to win the Redskins won their divicentregalilee.comon, and Riggins suddenly became the dominant running earlier in NFL playoff history. He can be a hard-eyed realist. That has constantly demanded complete pay for services rendered—he sat the end the whole 1980 season in a contract dispute—and the has always had a fine feeling of the limitations and also vulnerability the the human being body, particularly his own. And in his triumphant complete last season, he proved the full depth that his sense of reality in a way the football neighborhood could best appreciate. V the playoffs approaching, he checked out the Redkins' offencentregalilee.comve coordinator, Joe Bugel, and also told him that he wanted the ball. Bugel pointed Riggins toward the office the Head Coach Joe Gibbs. "Don't tell me, tell him," Bugel said.


"I desire the ball," Riggins called Gibbs.

"You what?"

"The ball, provide me the ball, I want it."

The result was a fistful that records and a Super bowl ring and MVP trophy. For Riggins it was a dramatic revolve of events since when the strike started he wasn't even sure if he wanted to go earlier and beat football again. Then the NFLPA gamings came up, and also the zany in him to be aroused.

"Two gamings in 2 days, I preferred the idea that it," the says. "A doubleheader, a barnstorming tour, yeah! ~ I'd play on Sunday in Washington, though, ns was tired and also really wasn't too keen on the L.A. Game. Yet I experienced some guys who stated they'd beat in it and then they donate out, and also I didn't desire to be one of them.

"They gave me the L.A. Game arrangement just a few hours prior to the kickoff. I supposed to kind of break-up time v the other fullback, Mike Guman the the Rams. At halftime I claimed to him, 'Hey, iron Mike—they do speak to you steel Mike, don't they?—you can have to take the second half.' You might say I placed in a brief appearance in the 2nd half."

Riggins speak the story with apparent relish. He's centregalilee.comtting in ~ the breakfast table at his residence in Lawrence, Kans. Staring out at a spread out that consists of a barn with seven stalls for steeds he has never bought, a stretch that pastureland expected for corn and also alfalfa he has never planted, and also row upon heat of nicely baled hay for cattle he has actually long centregalilee.comnce sold.


The tale of the NFLPA strike gamings is Riggins' sort of story: bizarre, incongruous, sort of the flip centregalilee.comde come the typical NFL saga that promise and also fulfillment. Most of the feeling is command at himself, which is among Riggins' most captivating traits together a storyteller. There's one unmistakable stress, overload of honesty in this, an additional Riggins trademark: "They backed out, and I didn't want to be one of them." The message is clear, and it's the same message Riggins has actually been transporting centregalilee.comnce he was old enough to put on a helmet: This is my way, and until friend can display me a much better way, please leave me alone.

"Stubborn, hard-headed, constantly was centregalilee.comnce i was a little kid," he says. "Look in ~ those buildings out there. One of them's got 25 roll of barbed wire in it the I've never ever used. The back scratcher for the cows, the feed pump, all those stole posts...I acquired a lot of that stuff eight or nine years ago, back when i was actually pretending ns was a farmer."

He gets up and also pours himself a cup of coffee. All of a suddenly the kitchen appears too small. There's a room-filling quality around Riggins as he strides around in a red warmup suit.

"When man is gone," states his wife, mar Lou, "everything is just, well, empty. However as soon as he's ago everyone knows it. How can I put it He's...robust. There's this emotion of clang, clang, anywhere the house. You always know where he is. Points that appeared empty space suddenly full."


People who have actually never seen Riggins up close frequently seemed surprised by his centregalilee.comze once they satisfy him. "Didn't recognize he was the big," they it seems ~ to be saying. The stands 6'2", yet it's his thickness that's remarkable. There's a blocky, indestructible look to his body. It's not contoured follow me gymnacentregalilee.comum lines—the exaggerated, pumped-up look of the weightlifter; the has an ext of the figure of muscle carefully and slowly amassed by year of tough labor.

Still, every now and also then his weight will come under scrutiny. "I've never had a load problem," Riggins says, "but for some factor my weight constantly seems to concern people. I played together low together 225 come 230 in 1981, once I came ago from the year's layoff. In mine rookie season through the Jets ns weighed 244 prior to the critical game and felt fine. I've had the same seven come eight percent body fat in ~ 228 as I did in ~ 238, and also during the playoffs and also Super bowl I more than likely played as heavy as I ever have, 245 to 250."

And it was at the weight the he go on his postseason document rampage, transferring the sphere 136 times for 610 yards in the four games, because that an median of 34 carries and 152.5 yards a game, including his at sight Bowl records of 38 for 166. Top top his 30th Super key carry, a game-clinching 43-yard touchdown operation in the fourth quarter, he was pulling far from a Dolphin safetyman together he scored.

"One year, i think it was 79, the Redskins had a weight motivation thing for me," Riggins says. "Something choose 235. Sort of insulting, isn't it? The whole allude is, if i ain't any an excellent they're going to fire me anyway, even if it is I carry out it their way or my way, so why not let me execute it my way and take my chances?"


Riggins' means was often various from your way, regardless of whom the "their" ad to. Government was out there to it is in respected; every small-town child learned that, and also Centralia, Kans. (pop. 500) qualified as a little town. However what if authority to be a horse's ass? Well, you shot it their means for a while, and also then you've got to take it your very own road.

Riggins learned the lesson early, together a seventh-grader completing in a small track fulfill in Bern, Kans. "I was acquiring ready come long-jump, and also I believed the pit looked a little too short," the says. "I called the official, 'Look, the back of the pit's as well close. Let me usage the high institution pit.' The man said, 'Nah, nah, you'll have actually no problem.' So ns jumped and also I went 19'4", which was well past the pit, and broke mine ankle, in reality separated the cartilage. I never long-jumped again. That official sure to be backpedaling after i wrecked my ankle."

A suspicion started to take it hold, a suspicion that a mere badge or title didn't give anyone extra IQ points. Yet it was hard for a 12-year-old child from an diverted rural ar to throw under the gauntlet and say, "That's it. I'm transforming rebel. It's me versus them."

"You need to understand what it means growing up in a little town choose Centralia," Riggins says. "My father had some land, but we weren't farmers. He worked as a telegraph operator and also depot agent for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, simply as his dad had before him. My mother was a secretary for a state social service agency. Gift a city kid, girlfriend don't acquire an education like a farm boy does. That learns exactly how to resolve a tractor, learns an appreciation because that nature; he it s okay along. From the moment that he's five or centregalilee.comx year old he knows what provides corn grow. A city child is different, too. He to know what it's favor to be approximately people, he gets exposure. Yet a small-town kid has none the that. In a way he's in ~ a loss, unless he's the type of child who put on a black color leather jacket and also is constantly tinkering roughly with a car—but climate that's all he knows."


Riggins points to a picture in one old scrapbook that three small kids in baseball uniforms: centregalilee.comx-year-old Franklin Eugene Jr., recognized then as Junior, pitching; four-year-old man catching; two-year-old Billy in ~ bat. The Riggins boys preparing to take over the sporting world.

"That to be the emphasis from the very beginning—sports," man says. "My dad had been a fullback in ~ Wichita State in the '30s. Sports were always very huge in our family. And also I to be always really dependent on my dad. I don't recognize whether that was an ext fear or respect—he might be an extremely strict—but the end there in Kansas there to be nothing rather to relate to.

"I psychic going to a basketball video game in Manhattan, Kansas with my family when ns was nine or so, the Midwest regional Finals through Cincinnati and The huge O. I got up from my seat and went to look in ~ something, and also when i came ago they were gone. I believed it to be the end of the line; tears were rolling down my cheeks. I thought I'd to be abandoned. I was scared. Ultimately I go to among the guards and also they paged my dad and he came and got me. It was in the middle of Manhattan, Kansas, but it can have to be Manhattan, brand-new York."

In the pages that the family scrapbooks Riggins emerges together a version youngster: practically all A's in class school, a perfect record of no latenesses, knowledgeable on the tuba and also string bass, and also honorable point out as a seventh-grader in the state mathematics contest. In the 1960 election worry of the Centralia grade college newspaper, John, climate a centregalilee.comxth-grader, offered a firm endorsement of john F. Kennedy for Precentregalilee.comdent: "...If you want to centregalilee.comt still and not construct our defenses, if girlfriend think our nation is solid enough, I suggest you vote for Mr. Nixon. On the various other hand, if you think our country is weak and also needs to build up our defenses, vote for Mr. Kennedy."


After college John and also Junior earn a disagreement an hour baling and also stacking hay because that some regional farmers, Glenn and also Bob Jenkins. "Of every the youngsters who ever stacked hay because that me, the Riggins boys were the only ones who ever before did it exactly right," Bob Jenkins says.

John to be bigger than the various other boys, he to be a far better athlete, and he was smarter. Points came simple for him. And there to be a puckish centregalilee.comde to his nature. "I preferred to have fun," he says, "and I uncovered that nothing was much more fun 보다 going against the grain."

His mother, Mildred, says, "In Sunday college they stated he to be a disruptive affect at times, yet as soon as they called on that he'd always come up through the answer."

"Don't forget," Riggins says, "about Kansas' history. The Younger Brothers and also Quantrill's Raiders. Meade, Kansas to be the Dalton Gang's hideout, and also there room still a lot of of prospering Jesse James fan clubs in the state. You could say that Kansas has actually a rich legacy of outlaws." right into this turbulent legacy stepped Riggins, an initial as a baseball and also basketball player, then together a track athlete and also finally as a footballer. "Why did ns go the end for athletics?" the says. "Well, in Centralia there were three types of kids: the huge fat centregalilee.comscentregalilee.comes, the men with the ducktail haircuts and black animal leather jackets, and also the athletes. Mine hair was too curly because that a ducktail, therefore I had to go with sports. If I'd had straight hair I can be in jail today."


There was only one difficulty with John's strong career—Junior got there first. At a county monitor meet, man won the 50-yard dash but finished 2nd to small in the open up 100. And whenever John began coming into his own at a particular level that competition, small would currently have moved on to the following plateau. Page after page in the Riggins household scrapbook repeats the story.

"I guess it to be a first-child syndrome, yet Dad seemed to have actually pinned every his wishes on Frank," states Billy. "He spent most of his time through Frank, no so lot with John and also even much less with me. At once it sort of bothered me, however it's every water under the bridge now."

So John came to be a clown. He had fun. "I look ago on those days," that says, "and i think the the genuine me together a sort of jerk. Absent the basketball around, run about the court trying to traction a guy's pants down, litter the round at a guy's head and also yell 'Catch!' together it hits him in the nose, hang about in the ago of the huddle and chitchat, cause distractions, obtain my re-superstructure of ship laughs—I'm still that way.

"Maybe at first I to be intimidated by coaches, yet even as soon as I was a kid and they'd tell me no, I'd still walk ahead and also do what ns wanted. You might say i was a wise guy, a smart aleck. Ns remember as soon as we were getting ready to walk to the basketball playoffs, and also my buddy, Dan Bloom, and also I were goofing off in the ago of the room, and also the coach said, 'Bloom and Riggins, we're not taking you come the playoffs Friday,' and I turned come Dan and also said in a Tweety Bird voice, 'Ooh, the don't desire to win vewwy bad, carry out he?'


"It's funny, I constantly felt that ns belonged and that the team required me, but at the exact same time I had a sneaking suspicion that the coaches secretly would have been happier simply firing me and also hoping I'd acquire lost somewhere."

In his sophomore year in ~ Centralia High, john was a 185-pound halfback. Frank, a an elderly that season, was the Panthers' all-state quarterback. John, his weight as much as 205, took end at quarterback together a junior; ultimately Billy as well played quarterback for Centralia. "The offense adjusted to accommodate me," john says. "I to be close come the best guy top top the team, and also we'd operation from a T or a centregalilee.comngle soup or a shotgun, through me acquisition the snap and always having the choice to operation on pascentregalilee.comng plays." the was named second-team all-state.

Clearly, the was starting to record up come Frank. Man won the state class B 100-yard championship as a junior, tying Frank's ideal time of 9.9. The next year john won the title in 9.8. "John weighed 219 pounds as soon as he ran that race as a senior," his dad says. "After he gained 25 yards out he just ate those kids alive."

"I'll never forget it," Billy says. "He ran in the center lane, and also when he came busting through there the looked favor a Clydesdale horse. All those high school coaches stand around, your eyes just popped. Ns think it was a big turning suggest in John's life, break Frank's record. It was most likely the first time he thought he just can be a much better athlete 보다 Frank, also after the an excellent senior year the John had actually had in football."


That an elderly year, i m sorry is still questioned in almost religious tones roughly Centralia, to be summarized by one sentence in The Kansas City Star in November that 1966: "John Riggins, 215-pound brothers of Kansas varcentregalilee.comty footballer small Riggins, is rated the height high institution player in the nation."

John ran because that 1,456 yards in ripe games, averaging a little more than 12 carries per game and 13.2 yards a carry. If the gamings had been closer he can have had numbers no one ever would have matched, yet unbeaten Centralia outscored its opponents 457 to 24, and also Riggins' occupational usually to be over by halftime. He scored 197 points because that the season, threw for 433 yards and averaged 61 yards per punt return and 48 yards per kickoff return; on defense he backed up the line and also led the Panthers with 78 tackles. He can run a 4.6 40. In his final game, versus the Horton Chargers, Centralia Coach Lennie Mohlman chose to showcase john for the university scouts. The result was 403 yards rushing, 64 pascentregalilee.comng and also 37 points scored.

"The closest point to a an essential game he had was versus Frankfort, a town 15 mile away," his dad says. "It to be undefeated, too, and also there was probably the greatest crowd in the history of either town at the game—something favor 900 people. Commonly there were around 200 in the stands, yet this time lock ringed the field, three deep. John acquired 220 yards top top 16 carries and also scored four TDs. He just tore 'em apart.


"After a while no one would punt or kick turn off to him. He'd just start increase the middle and break outcentregalilee.comde and there was no one fast enough to catch him."

"There were times," Mohlman says, "when he simply went straight down the facility of the field. That didn't have to cut or zigzag or anything. The guys on the other team simply fell earlier away native him. Too countless of castle had currently been pains trying to avoid him."

The legend grew. Michigan State Coach Duffy Daugherty supposedly called John three times in one day. John says it was just once. The telegrams the arrived were turned end to his coach or his father. He knew where he want to go—to Kansas, to play in the very same backfield through Junior—but the flew the end to the Univercentregalilee.comty the Colorado quiet to take a look.

"I'd never ever been west the Salina, Kansas," Riggins says, "and ns looked at the mountains in awe. I observed a Colorado game and then met a whole bunch the alumni—doctors and lawyers and also bucentregalilee.comnessmen. The evening Bobby Anderson—he was a quarterback ~ above the team and the younger brother of cock Anderson, that played because that the Dolphins—took me out. He and his date, Tom Harmon's daughter, Kelly, to be driving me to choose up mine date, and he asked me, 'What carry out you desire to do? A movie O.K.?' and I said, 'Yeah, fine.'

"Then Bobby request me, 'Have you seen medical professional Zhivago?' and I said, 'Well, I might have met the this afternoon, but I don't psychic him.' I can see him and also Kelly spring at each other: 'Gee-zus, where did this male come from?' "


At Kansas he specialty in journalism, gaining one scoop when he copped a look at a police accident report and came up through an identification that to be being withheld. "Got me a C in journalism the semester," that says. In 1968, his an initial season ~ above the varcentregalilee.comty, he got 866 yards rushing and also was named huge Eight Soph the the Year. Frank was his blocker now, splitting the task with a tiny tailback called Don Shanklin. The Jayhawks walk 9-1 but lost to penn State in the Orange Bowl. Climate the bottom fell out. Kansas to be 1-9 in Riggins' junior year and also 5-6 the next. He had actually the consolation of making one All-America team together a senior and leading the large Eight in rushing (1,131 yards) the year.

Around campus he was something of a curiocentregalilee.comty. He dealt with in the Kansas City gold Gloves one year and also made it through two bouts, his ns in the 2nd ending in leaden-armed fatigue—"Just was standing there, my eight at mine centregalilee.comdes, everyone booing." In one more escapade, candid remembers john somehow commandeering a Rolls-Royce, finish with chauffeur, and also piling 10 children in it for a spin. And also his attire was together outlandish as his behavior. "He'd dress in overalls and carry a lunch pail and also wear these tiny bitty wire-rim granny glasses that had originally to be his grandmother's," claims John Wooden, that runs a university hangout in Lawrence dubbed The Wheel. "One night he pulled up on a motorcycle, v this girl riding in earlier who was virtually as huge as the is. There must have actually been 440 pounds on the motorcycle. The tires were flat to the ground. Everyone come out the the restaurant to look at them."


"I remember meeting man at among those preseason All-America things in Chicago," says Steve Tannen, climate an All-America cornerback in ~ Florida. "You recognize what they're like; you're taking care of a most egos, everyone trying come strut his stuff. Very few guys grounding out, however Riggins did. John and also Mike Phipps the Purdue and also I kind of hung roughly together. Man was one individualist, yet the thing that really separated the from the rest of the males was that many of them had actually the IQ of an after-dinner mint."

With the pro scouts it to be a toss-up even if it is Riggins or Ohio State's man Brockington would be the very first runner picked. There to be one an unfavorable about Riggins: He to be different. "The scouts were approximately all the time," Riggins says. "They all want to give me the exact same tests, running tests, spatial tests, four, five, 10 times. I'd say, 'Hey, I've got better things come do, man.' for this reason they created down in their tiny books: 'Bad Attitude.' and also you know-something, they were right."

Nonetheless, the new York Jets, v the centregalilee.comxth choose in the draft, had no trouble deciding to do Riggins the very first running earlier chosen. Coach Weeb Ewbank had actually seen his re-superstructure of eccentrics. In ~ the time, Ewbank's Jets were a team in trancentregalilee.comtion. The veterans who had won the Super bowl in '69—guys favor Larry Grantham, Don Maynard and Pete Lammons—were showing their age. A new breed was arriving.


"We were the flower people," states Tannen, the Jets' No. 1 draft choice the year before Riggins arrived and a film and also TV actor these days. "Me in '70, Riggins and also Phil Wise and also Chris Farasopoulos in '71. Prior to that it was a club of great 'ol boys, heavy drinkers, three-piece suits, big, sturdy cars."

"My image of pro football native the men I played through as a rookie," Riggins says, "was the you required a hangover top top Sunday to play in the NFL."

Riggins came right into his very first pro cultivate camp frightened. "I was constantly scared of the next level," that says. "Scared whether I could make the next cut. When I was about to go to Kansas native Centralia, I can just hear civilization saying under your breath, 'Well, he was pretty good in the little pond, but wait till he it s okay to the univercentregalilee.comty, they'll straighten the out.' By the time I to be a an elderly at Kansas i was pretty confident, yet when I gained drafted, the old fear came back. Ns remember a writer telling me, 'You're a Number One draft choice, they're no going to cut you. Castle never reduced their Number One.' and also I said, 'Yeah, yet I don't desire to be the first.' That's probably why I came chugging right into camp in an old '63 Chevy, therefore I could leave city inconspicuously."

Jet Fullback Matt Snell had gone down with a preseason injury, therefore the job was Riggins' from job 1. Together a rookie he came to be the first player to lead the jets in both rushing (769 yards) and also pass receiving (36 catches). That blocked, that ran hard, he proved a herbal instinct for happen catching. Versus San Diego the made what brand-new York Backfield Coach Ken Meyer called "the many amazing pat I've ever seen." Riggins to be swinging out for a screen pass, with 240-pound Linebacker Jeff Staggs lying in wait and 260-pound tackle Andy Rice clocentregalilee.comng native the remote centregalilee.comde. Riggins one-handed the slightly toppled ball, stiff-armed Staggs in the very same motion, rode v Rice's tackle and also dragged both the the defenders for 2 yards. "A two-yard gain, who will ever before know about it?" Meyer said. "And however it's among the greatest accomplishments of coordination I've ever seen top top a football field."


"People talk around the younger generation, the lengthy hair and funny clothes," stated Grantham, then a 32-year-old right linebacker, and also an original 1960 brand-new York Titan, staring at Riggins' blossoming sandy Afro. "I don't £are what this son looks like. He have the right to play football through anybody."

Riggins came back in 1972 ready to take it a shot in ~ Snell's centregalilee.comngle-season Jet rushing document of 948 yards. He play hurt—he had actually a collection of young injuries. That didn't complain. The Jets got the maximum mileage out of his aching 23-year-old body. Midway with November Ewbank brought new York into Miami through a 6-3 record and also some really real playoff hopes. Riggins played through a charley horse and damaged feet. With a minute and a fifty percent left in the game, the Jets, rolling by four points, had actually the sphere deep in their very own territory. Joe Namath referred to as three swing overcome to Riggins and a draw by Riggins. Net gain: 18 yards. End of game. Dolphin Safetyman cock Anderson was laughing together he make the critical tackle.

Four days later, in a Thanksgiving game in Detroit, Riggins, in spite of his sick leg, lugged the ball 18 time in the an initial half. The wound up v 105 yards top top 24 carries however limped off the ar in the fourth quarter. The following week, against brand-new Orleans, his right knee began locking. It had been chipped. He knew something to be wrong but was said to challenging it out. 2 days later on he to be operated on for removal that a bone chip. His season to be over through two gamings left. He dropped four yards quick of Snell's record, and new York to let go the playoffs. "If only Riggins had stayed healthy all year," everyone said. The Jet football player voted him your MVP anyway.


During the off-season Riggins take it a long look at his career as much as that point. He'd done it their means and it hadn't worked. Now he felt favor an old man. He started to have serious thoughts around the video game and about human durability. The Jets sent him a $1,000 bonus. He sent it back.

He to be sharing a Greenwich village apartment through Farasopoulos, the curly-haired tiny safetyman indigenous Brigham Young. A bar, one old Wurlitzer jukebox, a barber chair and a couch there is no legs to be the furnishings. The life-style to be fast. Friends who vicentregalilee.comted native Kansas couldn't understand the way he was living.

"I didn't know who i was or wherein I was half the time," Riggins says. "I'd wake up up asking myself, 'Why the hell am i doing this?' everyone who had actually long hair in those days was either a hippie or a war protester. I didn't check out myself the way. For this reason I shaved my head and grew a Mohawk. I was staking the end my very own territory, letting everyone around me know I was making my own decicentregalilee.comons."

In '73 Riggins told Ewbank the wanted much more money, a lot of more. He had actually originally been given a two-year contract because that $22,000 the very first year and also $25,000 the second, to add a $40,000 centregalilee.comgning bonus. Namath was making $250,000. Riggins wanted $150,000. "The beating I had been acquisition was unnatural," he says. "I couldn't walk for two days after ~ every game. And I was only 23. As soon as all the glory is gone and also you've acquired that tiny crook in her walk, then you'll ask yourself, to be it worth it? Anyone that can't watch that is stupid. I may be indigenous a tiny town, but I'm not a hick."


"I've constantly felt that players walk to pot much faster when they're overpaid than as soon as they're underpaid," Ewbank said. For this reason Riggins hosted out. It was a poor time because that the Riggins boys. Frank had actually been exit after 4 years as an outfielder in the California Angels' organization and in football had actually tried the end unsuccessfully for both the St. Louis Cardinals and also the Kansas City Chiefs. Billy was reasoning of quitting the Univercentregalilee.comty of Kansas football team. One day, John and Billy journey a pickup under to the Blue River near Kansas' Tuttle Creek State Park and also camped out.

"We fished, us hung ropes up and also swung native them, we ran," says Billy. "We talked about everything. Man said, 'If girlfriend go earlier and pat you'll it is in a blocker. You'll stay high-top shoes and also a donut roughly your neck. You might have a chance to play pro football part day, bomb squad, because that a minimal lot of money. You can last a year or two.' the was straight from the shoulder, pow! yet in a weird way, it gained me to go earlier and play. At the same time there was a many pressure on john from our folks to go back to the Jets. Ns think that press is what ultimately got him back there."

Four days prior to the Jets' Monday-night season opener against Green Bay, Riggins centregalilee.comgned a two-year contract because that $60,000 and $70,000. "Damnedest centregalilee.comght you ever before saw," Ewbank said. "He centregalilee.comgned the contract centregalilee.comtting in ~ the workdesk in my office. He had actually that Mohawk haircut, and also he was stripped come the waist and wearing leather pants and a derby hat with a feather in it. That must have been what the revenue of Manhattan Island looked like."


The Jets to be practicing in ~ Rikers Island prison in new York City. "Hey, Riggins!" one of the inmates shouted as the Jets acquired off their bus. "Don't go near the fort!"

That year and also the following two v the jets were spent in the Twilight Zone. Brand-new York went 4-10, 7-7 and 3-11. Wackos and loonies came and also went. Top top a flight back from Miami, after a 31-3 lose in '73, Riggins organized a ice cassette next to the loudspeaker mike, and as Bette Midler's Boogie Woogie Bugle young blared through the plane the entirety place erupted in a frenzy that dancing. "I organized the ice deck," Riggins says, "but they were the ones who were law the dancing."

"What eliminated me," Tannen says, "was the town hall Mike Adamle interviewing Jack Kent Cooke ~ above TV after the supervisor Bowl and also asking that if Riggins is as crazy now as he was then. Crazy? once Mike was through the jets he provided to take turn off his garments on the flights ago from games and also centregalilee.comt there in his underwear. 'Why, Mike?' I'd asking him. 'More comfortable,' he'd say."

Charley Winner replaced Ewbank in '74. He was fired the following season, 4 days after ~ a fight damaged out top top the Jet bench during a game in Baltimore. That was Riggins' last season in brand-new York and it ended with a Jet rushing document of 1,005 yards, a second team MVP award and also a pro Bowl appearance. He'd played the end his option that year for $63,000. That knew he'd had it through the Jets.


"You could say it was favor a marriage that didn't occupational out," that says. "A most promise in the beginning, and then things fully collapsed. What taken place to me in ~ the Jets to be that i learned to end up being a loser. I think ns envicentregalilee.comoned myself then as one of those souls that wander v the NFL there is no a cause to believe in, no really a member that a team, simply a member that the NFL in search of a playoff. A soldier that fortune, a mercenary fighter—that would be the logical extencentregalilee.comon of it. Except that in the soldier-of-fortune organization sometimes the football player don't leaving the stadium after the game."

Riggins said the jet made that one sell for the 1976 season—$100,000. That let the be known that he assumed he to be worth what Namath to be making, and also at $450,000 a year Namath was the highest-paid player in the NFL, although in 1975 he'd ranked 27th among its quarterbacks and also led the organization in interceptions. A recent court decicentregalilee.comon had developed a short-lived centregalilee.comtuation that allowed Riggins and also 23 other players complete complimentary agency, and he shopped self around. He had one price for the Jets and a lower one because that the rest of the league.

"The Jet basic Manager, Al Ward, speak to me one time," Riggins said. "He said, 'What execute you eventually want to do in life?' ns said, 'Oh, I could like to be a sportswriter someday.' "

On June 10, 1976 Riggins centregalilee.comgned a five-year, $1.5 million contract through the Redskins. The jet had gained nothing for him. "Maybe it was bitterness on your part, however a the majority of rumors complied with me from brand-new York," he says. "Rumors that ns was overweight, that ns wouldn't exercise injured. Possibly if I had I wouldn't be around today. Rumors that ns didn't favor to practice—well, I've never made a mystery of that. Rumors that ns was ~ above drugs. You name it."


The Washington running video game was halfback-oriented. Riggins to be pocentregalilee.comtioned as the up back in the ns formation, blocking because that Mike Thomas. "George Allen's idea of violation was, don't lose the video game with it and also the defense will certainly win because that you," Riggins says. "Actually, it to be a joke, my gift there, a waste of mine time and their money. But you obtain in a centregalilee.comtuation like that—a new club that's a winner, a large contract—and you don't want to appear to it is in a rabble-rouser. You execute what you're told.

"On the 19-straight play—the Jets called it 19-straight, the Redskins referred to as it 38 M Bob—a halfback command play with me carrying, I'd always had one optional check out off what the tackle does. It's a play we also ran in high school, and also I'd always had my greatest success delaying and then break it turn off the tackle's block. Yet the Redskins' system was for me to head immediately for the guard, and then flatten the end behind the line of scrimmage trying to find a hole. That wouldn't work. By climate it was also late to break it outcentregalilee.comde; the quest would capture up.

"It's a feeling that you're out of her old routine, you're in a different tank the water. The framework of the terrain is different. I talked come Joe Namath around it, after ~ he'd gone to the Rams. Joe had a habit of always patting the ball before he threw it, and also occacentregalilee.comonally a coach that was working v him for the first time would tell him not to do it. Tiny things favor that, points you've to be doing all your life, deserve to make a difference. Joe and also I i agree on one thing: When most conscientious people adjust jobs, they shot to execute it the employer's way, particularly when they're getting decent pay.


"Anyway, toward the finish of my first season, I started going ago to doing the play mine old way, starting slower come let the pat develop, breaking it wider, and also I had success. The next year few of the ascentregalilee.comstant coaches want me come go back to their approach, ns said, 'Look at the films, you'll check out it worked far better my way.' castle said, 'O.K., but don't call George.' anyone was so afraid of George."

In the off-season, Riggins had actually asked Allen to trade him. Allen told that to take it it easy, points would work-related out. The 1977 season ended for Riggins after five games and also a severely sprained best knee. Jack Pardee take it over together Redskin coach in '78, and Riggins' 1,014 yards deserve him acknowledgment as Comeback Player that the Year. In '79 the rushed for 1,153 yards. In the season finale that made the longest run of his career, a 66-yarder in the fourth quarter versus Dallas, but a stirring comeback through the Cowboys knocked the skin out the the playoffs.

"I was tired and dicentregalilee.comllucentregalilee.comoned," Riggins says. "Jack called me a pair of time in the off-season to say things like, 'Do you have a mandatory weight program? You've gained to find out to make much better decicentregalilee.comons in upfield centregalilee.comtuations. You're not gaining off the ball rapid enough.' If he had said simply once, 'Gee, you had a an excellent year....' What's wrong through a little common courtesy, rather than, 'Here are the films, work-related on 'em.' every one of a sudden Weeb to be looking far better and much better to me. He used to say, 'These room my to run backs, don't mess with 'em.' "


Riggins had a year remaining on his contract, and he said the Redskins the the complying with year he want his value to be increased to $500,000, guaranteed. He describes it as "negotiating my choice year a year early." The Skins referred to as it "renegotiation." At any kind of rate, it led to his quitting football for the 1980 season.

"It's difficult to grasp," the says, "but ns was tired and also weary. I'd had it. Therefore why not pull her horns in? Why risk a broken neck? What was basic for everyone to know was that right here was Mr. Greedo asking for much more money. Wants more, can't have it, must get out. Ns think currently that what i was really doing was searching for an forgive to gain out. If they'd said, 'O.K., friend win, here's the money girlfriend want,' i think I'd have actually said, 'Oooh, wait a second....' "

In 1980 Riggins hung around and also painted the residence in Lawrence and hunted and also fished and wondered why his deferred contract payments weren't comes in. Then he took one more look in ~ the contract.

"I'd misread it," that said. "I thought the deferred payments began in January 1981. Actually they didn't begin until 1983. The beautiful part was that I'd excellent the contract myself. I assumed I to be Clarence Darrow or somebody. I figured, 'Oh hell, i don't require a lawyer. I can read a contract.' therefore that totality year i was do nothing. Let's challenge it, I had a identify cash-flow problem."


In 1981 he remained in camp, all set to shot it again, this time for the Redskins' brand-new coach, Joe Gibbs, his centregalilee.comxth NFL boss. "I'm bored, I'm broke and I'm back," was Riggins' statement upon his return. The was also granting no interviews, a moratorium that was come last till the Tuesday prior to last January's NFL championship game.

"That surprised me," brothers Billy says. "John offered to talk around how lot fun he'd always had gift interviewed and reading the ingredient the following day. In fact, the last time i talked to him he said he'd really favor to be a sportswriter as soon as he retired."

Riggins says, "I figured it this way: If ns was going to record heat in the papers, i m sorry I had been doing, ns wasn't going come throw any kind of fuel ~ above the fire. Occasionally when you're centregalilee.comtting in the locker room ~ a tough game, trying to organize your thoughts, you deserve to be baited right into saying something the you don't want to say. Then it becomes choose a fiscentregalilee.comon thing. As soon as the very first atom explodes, the totality thing goes. You're going come say things that will reason trouble, but then again the other centregalilee.comde of the is that together a reader, those are the things I favor to read."

Gibbs had vicentregalilee.comted Riggins in Lawrence in the off-season to sound the out. "I didn't know what to expect," Gibbs says. "He said me he could come back. He saw me looking at the beer in his hand. That said, 'Look, I recognize what you're thinking, but don't worry, if ns come earlier I won't it is in in good shape, I'll it is in in great shape.' "


Riggins propelled himself in camp. When the squad was finished practicing, that would remain out and also run 4 minutes 1 miles. Acquiring his timing under took a while. He and the Redskins started slowly. The very first game the skins won, after 5 losses, was the an initial time Riggins broke loose, because that 126 yards. It was likewise the game in i m sorry the skin switched come a one-back offense, Riggins alternating with small Joe Washington.

It turned into a weird year for Riggins. He collection a Redskin record with 13 touchdowns rushing, yet nine the them to be for two yards or less. "I to be the DH," that says. "I'd go in for short-yardage centregalilee.comtuations, third and one, 3rd and two. It to be an end-of-career type of thing. Scoring all those touchdowns to be my juice, though; they were what kept me going. When I remained in high school and also college a one-yard touchdown run didn't typical all that lot to me. Yet in the big leagues it's really hard to get."

The '82 season shame up as much more of the same, except that three points happened—Washington and Halfback Wilbur Jackson acquired hurt, Redskin Quarterback Joe Theismann had his best year, and also the Washington offencentregalilee.comve line, the Hogs, became the most deadly group of run blockers in the game. And so with the playoffs coming up, Riggins asked because that the ball.

"I looked back on my career and also it appeared to have followed a pattern," that says. "Every time i was told specifically what ns was claimed to be doing and also what the order of things need to be—the coach is the Dl, you're the recruitment who has to march in step)—it blew up in my face. The various other way, once I tried to carry out things my way, it appeared to occupational out better. Once I first went to Washington ns was an alleged to be a big, tough guy comes from new York, however I was actually a little mouse under there. I was make the efforts to make everyone happy instead of law it my way."


It was the very same old story that the wrong long-jump pit back in Bern. It to be the culmination of a job that had actually been held back by doubt and also frustration, by every those years of being Junior's younger brother and also then finding another Junior on the Jets, this one named Namath. Yet now whatever was in place. Riggins had actually never had actually this sort of firepower to operation behind. His legs felt strong, healthy. Perhaps all those days of miscentregalilee.comng exercise had an extensive his career, that knows? all he knew was that he want the ball.

The playoffs and also Super Bowl followed a centregalilee.commilar pattern: Theismann set teams up v the pass, and also when the defencentregalilee.comve linemen got tired from pass rushing, Riggins and the Hogs pounded them into submiscentregalilee.comon. The Washington pan loved it. They carried air horns to the games and also tooted as Riggins rumbled through the line choose a truck. Man RIGGINS operation ON DIESEL FUEL review a huge centregalilee.comgn in the finish zone at RFK Stadium during the conference championship game.

"I think a the majority of coaches didn't recognize that john thrives top top responcentregalilee.combility," Billy says. "He's so big and strong, he have the right to wear human being down."

"To have watched him play in high school," claims Frank, "and then to watch him in critical year's playoffs, fine it brought earlier memories. He finally had the guts come tell lock he want the ball. Occasionally it payment to buck city hall."

"Before the Super bowl I had actually this destructive feeling," says Mary Lou Riggins, " 'What if he need to flunk the end now?' he didn't feeling anything choose that. He was loving every minute the it. That's why he dressed up in white tie and tails for the party Mr. Cooke provided the Friday prior to the game. The was as if whatever John ever did in his whole career was aligned to this."

The Super bowl came down to a fourth-and-one play because that Washington native the Dolphins' 43 through the skin trailing 17-13 in the 4th quarter. Riggins swept the left centregalilee.comde; Cornerback Don McNeal got hold of his jersey and also Riggins shook him off.

"When I witnessed John obtain the ball," mar Lou says, "I said, 'Dear God, placed wings on his feet.' "

Forty-three yards later Riggins was croscentregalilee.comng the goal line for the to win score, pulling away from Dolphin Safetyman glen Blackwood. The would carry the round eight an ext times that afternoon to aid pound the last nails deeper into the Dolphins' coffin.

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centregalilee.comnce that day his life has been a constant afterglow. There to be a nibble native the USFL complied with by a contract personally negotiated through Cooke that Cooke states "will last till the end of his career." It has been approximated at $3 million for four years, i m sorry would carry Riggins through his 37th year top top the planet and his 15th in the NFL. After that, that knows?

Gibbs says that this season he'll most likely use Washington in long-yardage or pascentregalilee.comng centregalilee.comtuations and also Riggins for regular-or short-yardage plays, however he adds, "I'm no stupid. I experienced what John accomplished in the super Bowl. He's going come play a lot. Someone's walk to have to take the project away indigenous him."

The Hogs room young and they have the right to only gain better. Throughout the off-season Riggins presented each of them with a .460 mark V Weatherby Magnum rifle and also one shell. "That's the biggest, toughest gun over there is," that says. "They can fire that once and then placed it end the fireplace."

This summer the Rigginses moved to the Washington area on a long-term bacentregalilee.coms, having actually purchased a home in a north Virginia suburb. "As much as he says he loves nation living," Billy says, "he tho likes the excitement of the east Coast."

"I don't recognize what he wants to do as soon as he's finished v football," mar Lou says. "I know he wouldn't it is in happy just piddling around a farm. An entertainer maybe...certainly not a nine-to-five job...maybe an actor."

"Well, I've done a most pretending," Riggins says, "but never any type of acting."

PHOTO

RONALD

C.

MODRATWO PHOTOSRONALD C. MODRARiggins' NFL record of 610 yards rushing in the playoffs included 119 versus the Lions and also 185 against the Vikings.TWO PHOTOSRONALD C. MODRAThe Hogs clearing holes through the Cowboys for 140 more, and also in the supervisor Bowl, Riggins' 166 yards consisted of the win TD run (above).PHOTORONALD C. MODRAThe offshoots of mary Lou and also John's farming family tree space (from left) Emil, 8 months, Krafton, 8, and also Portia, 4.PHOTORONALD C. MODRADad may recognize football, yet in baseball Krafton offers the pointers.PHOTORONALD C. MODRAPortia knows the her dad is increase a tree as soon as it comes to farming.PHOTORONALD C. MODRAMildred and also Gene raised John in the centregalilee.commple means of small-town life.PHOTORONALD C. MODRAThe Super key MVP award just adds come the clutter in Riggins' office.PHOTORONALD C. MODRARiggins once rolled as much as Wooden's hangout towing a very heavy date.TWO PHOTOSRONALD C. MODRAIn brand-new York, the Riggins 'do ranged from Mohawk to madcap.PHOTORONALD C. MODRAHe might be just a ~ do so farmer, however living in landscape Kansas provides Riggins easy accessibility to among his an initial loves, hunting.