Top 50 Falcons: No. 8, Gerald Riggs

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 8 is running back Gerald Riggs.

Years played for Falcons: The ninth overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft out of Arizona State, Gerald Riggs was a versatile back for the Falcons from 1982 to 1988. Over a three- year span from ’84 to ’86, Riggs rushed for 4,532 yards and 32 touchdowns. In 1985, he led the NFL in rushing attempts with 397 and made three Pro Bowl appearances.

Jersey No.: 42

Falcons running back Gerald Riggs (42) played six years in Atlanta. In 2013, Riggs was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor. (AJC)

His impact on the team: Riggs became the all-time leading rusher for the Falcons in 1987 and finished his career in Atlanta a year later with 6,631 yards, a mark that has stood for 28 years. Riggs teamed up with William Andrews in the backfield in what could have been one of the greatest backfields of all-time if it weren’t for Andrews’ injuries. The two played just three seasons together with 1982 being a strike-shortened year, 1983 Riggs just finding his groove and 1986 when Andrews returned from a knee injury that cost him two seasons and left him never being the same. After starring as the lead back for four years, Riggs was traded in 1989 to Washington. It was a blessing for him as in his final season in the league in 1991 he would score six touchdowns in the postseason and help lead the Redskins to a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. In 2013, Riggs was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor.

On being drafted by the Falcons: “It’s funny, but the draft back then didn’t have all the stuff it has today with social media and everything. I was actually at a pizza place playing a video game when the guy running the place came up to me and said he had just heard my name on television. I had really had a good combine and ran a very good 40, but I wasn’t sure where I was going to be picked. There were no cell phones so I ran home and my agent had been calling and leaving me messages." (AJC)

On being the league’s leading rusher in 1985: “That season was somewhat of a blur but looking back what I really enjoyed was the teammates I had. We didn’t have a whole lot of big names. (Offensive lineman) Bill Fralic and I were the only ones that went to the Pro Bowl. I enjoyed playing with those guys but our win-loss record was not real good and we had some guys that didn’t show up when we needed it." (AJC)

On being traded to the Redskins: “Funny, but I was leaving Atlanta kicking and screaming. It’s weird because I was watching the draft in 1989 and on TV they were talking about a trade between Washington and Atlanta and I wondered who it was going to be and it was me. But I got to go play for a great team and coach Joe Gibbs and they realized I had a special way of running inside and it worked. I was sharing time with Earnest Byner and we had a good group of guys up front. They had a lot of trust in me and moved the pile." (AJC)

On retiring: “It was time and Washington was breaking up the team as well as the fact that Joe was about to get into cars (NASCAR). I was ready to stop." (AJC)

On being in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor: “I cherish being part of that group. I am indentified with some of the finest football players in football and I don’t care what they say about Atlanta, there has been some really great players." (AJC)

Where he is now: Riggs, 55, lives in Chattanooga and has been married to Sherry for 10 years. He has two sons and a daughter, Victorious. Gerald Jr., a running back who had injury problems during his time with the Tennessee Volunteers, signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2006 but was cut and played in the Canadian Football. Cody is a defensive back and played three years with the Gators before transferring for his final season at Notre Dame. Riggs is active in the ministry and is a guest speaker.

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith

49: Michael Haynes

48: Jonathan Babineaux

47: John Zook

46: Ken Reaves

45: Lynn Cain

44: Justin Blalock

43: Bobby Butler

42: Tim Mazzetti

41: Buddy Curry

40: Scott Case

39: Jeff Merrow

38: Elbert Shelley

37: Matt Bryant

36: Alge Crumpler

35: Michael Turner

34: Ray Buchanan

33: Chris Hinton

32: Terance Mathis

31: Devin Hester

30: Don Smith

29: Greg Brezina

28: Chris Miller

27: John James

26: Bob Whitfield

25: Rolland Lawrence

24: Alfred Jenkins

23: Billy Johnson

22: Chris Chandler

21: Morten Andersen

20: John Abraham

19: George Kunz

18: Jamal Anderson

17: Keith Brooking

16: R.C. Thielemann

15: Tony Gonzalez

14: Andre Rison

13: Julio Jones

12: Roddy White

11: Steve Bartkowski

10: Michael Vick

9: Bill Fralic

8: Gerald Riggs

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author