Kansas Legends: John Riggins


Next in the line of legends to look at from Kansas, is running back John Riggins. Riggins, was molded as an offensive lineman in a running back’s body. The running back was nearly impossible to bring down while at Kansas and in the NFL. Riggins followed the lead of past running back greats at Kansas like Gale Sayers and John Hadl.

Riggins attended high school at Centralia High School in Kansas. He was a three-sport athlete at the school, earning letters in football, basketball, and track. Riggins won the 100-yard dash state title on two occasions while at Centralia. After graduating high school, Riggins spurned other offers to sign with Kansas.

As a freshman, Riggins showed little sign of what he would later become. He rushed for only 279 yards on 99 carries. Riggins in his second season at Kansas, earned more carries and time on the field. Due to this, his total rushing yards increased by nearly six hundred yards. As a junior, the secret was out on Riggins. His total carries increased, though total yards decreased to 662.

Then, in Riggins final year at Kansas, magic occurred on the field. Thanks to an improved offensive line, Riggins averaged 5.4 yards per carry and rushed for 1,131 yards. He led Kansas to the Orange Bowl where they lost to Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions, 15-14. Riggins finished his career at Kansas with 2,659 rushing yards, eclipsing Sayer’s mark and putting him at the top.

Riggins was drafted by the New York Jets. While here, he enjoyed marginal success, making it to the Pro Bowl in his fourth season with the team. Yet it wasn’t until he was signed by the Washington Redskins did great success occur at the professional level.

In 1978, his third season with the Redskins, Riggins topped the 1,000 yard mark for the second time in his seven year career. Next season, he finished with 1,153 rushing yards. Then came a contract dispute with the team. He managed to re-sign with Washington, yet struggled for two seasons after missing the 1980 season due to the dispute. Riggins took the Redskins on his back in 1982, propelling them to a Super Bowl win over the Miami Dolphins, 27-17. He rushed for over 600 yards during the Redskins playoff run, and was named Super Bowl MVP.  In 1983 and 1984, Riggins was one of the elite running backs in the league, nearly hitting 1,400 yards both seasons. He took Washington to the Super Bowl again, in 1983 only to lose to the LA Raiders.

Riggins retired in 1985, finishing with 11,352 total rushing yards. He had 104 total rushing touchdowns. In 1992, Riggins was inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame.