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the second player in NFL history to rush for over 100 touchdowns
Robert John Riggins was born in Seneca, Kansas, on August 4, 1949. He attended nearby Centralia High School, where he earned All-America honors in football and All-State honors in basketball, and was a two-time winner of the state 100-yard dash title.
After high school, Riggins played football at the University of Kansas, where he twice earned All-Big Eight honors and broke rushing records set by Gale Sayers. In 1969, he helped the Jayhawks make it to the Orange Bowl, which they lost to Pennsylvania State University. In his senior year (1970), he ran for 1,131 yards and 14 touchdowns, two records which have since been broken. By the end of his college career he had rushed for a total of 2,659 yards. He graduated with a degree in journalism in 1971.
Riggins was picked by the New Yotk Jets in the first round of the 1971 NFL draft. In his rookie year he became the first Jet ever to lead the team in both rushing and receiving. Although he missed the final two games in 1972 because of knee surgery, Riggins rushed for 944 yards, four yards less than Matt Snell's franchise record. In 1975, he became the first player in franchise history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in a season (1,005). By the end of 1975, after only four years with the Jets, he was already the fourth leading rusher in team history. He was named Jets' MVP in 1972 and 1975, and made his only Pro Bowl appearance in the 1975 post-season.
Signed as a free agent by the Washington Redskins during the off-season, Riggins was used mostly in short-yardage situations in his first season with Washington and missed much of the 1977 season with a knee injury. He finally broke 1,000 yards rushing in 1978, and was a major part of the Redskins' offense for the 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons. When the Redskins refused to renegotiate his contract after the 1980 season, Riggins chose to sit out the 1980-81 season.
Returning to the Redskins prior to the 1981 season, Riggins only managed 714 rushing yards, but he did score 13 touchdowns. The players' strike of 1982 restricted him to only 553 yards during tthe regular season, but he enjoyed great success in the playoffs, during which he rushed for a record 444 yards in three games to help the Redskins make it to Super Bowl XVII. He then set a Super Bowl record by rushing for 166 yards, including a game-winning 43-yard touchdown; the Redskins ultimately defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-17, and Riggins was named MVP of the game.
In the 1983 season, Riggins rushed for 1,347 yards and a then-record 24 touchdowns during the regular season. On November 30, 1983, he set an NFL record by scoring in his 12th consecutive game; his streak ended at thirteen games. By the end of the regular season he was second on the NFL list of top scorers with 144 points, behind his teammate Mark Moseley (with 161 points). He followed the regular season with two stellar post-season games, in which he rushed for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns, and a 64-yard performance in Super Bowl XVIII, which the Redskins lost to the Los Angeles Raiders 38-9. His 1983 season was capped by his being named All-Pro for the only time in his career.
Despite suffering from back problems, Riggins rushed for 1,239 yards in 1984 and tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns, with 14. In 1985, he rushed for more than 100 yards in three of his last four starts before being replaced by George Rogers as the starter. He retired at the end of the 1985 season.
Over the course of his professional career, Riggins played in 175 games, had a total of 11,352 rushing and 2,090 receiving yards, and had scored 104 rushing and 12 receiving touchdowns. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in five seasons, and over 100 yards in 35 games, and was only the second player in NFL history to rush for over 100 touchdowns (Jim Brown became the first, in 1965). He was elected to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. He has also been enshrined in the Redskins' Ring of Fame (1990) and the KU Ring of Honor at Memorial Stadium (2007).
After leaving football, Riggins went into acting and starred in some off-off-Broadway plays and made appearances in a few television series. He currently works as a sports commentator on television and radio.
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This page was last updated on June 17, 2017.