John Riggins made the Washington Redskins a team to be feared, not one to be mocked endlessly.
Years before the Daniel Snyder era, players like Riggins and star quarterback Joe Theismann had the Washington Redskins competing for Super Bowl titles. A powerful running back and fullback, Riggins won the hearts and minds of football fans across the country.
At one point, though, Riggins and the Redskins were involved in a bitter contract dispute. That’s when Riggins wore his hunting outfit, and the rest lent itself to an incredible story.
John Riggins is a Washington legend
The sixth overall pick of the New York Jets in 1971, count John Riggins among the many players who had their best years away from Gang Green.
Riggins wasn’t terrible with the Jets, totaling 3,880 yards and 25 touchdowns on 4.2 yards per carry in five seasons. He even earned Pro Bowl honors after the 1975 season, when Riggins ran for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns.
Riggins signed with the Washington Redskins in 1976 and originally served as a short-yardage back.
By 1978, though, Washington saw what they had in Riggins, who ran for 2,167 yards and 14 touchdowns on 4.3 yards per carry over the next two years.
Riggins and Washington had some feuds in the 1980s
Like many players today, John Riggins was willing to hold out from action in hopes of earning a new contract.
This was 1980, though, and Washington didn’t have much patience for Riggins’ decision to leave camp. Washington placed him on the left-camp retired list, a move that meant one of two things: Riggins could report to camp and suck things up, or sit out the year because he couldn’t play elsewhere.
Riggins opted for the second choice and sat out the 1980 season. Washington went 6-10 without their star running back, which was their only double-digit losing season between 1964 and 1992.
For comparison, Washington lost at least 10 games nine times from 2000-19.
John Riggins earned a new contract with his hunting outfit
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When the Washington Redskins hired Joe Gibbs in 1981, one of his first moves was to try bringing John Riggins back into the mix.
Gibbs traveled to Kansas to meet with Riggins and try negotiating a new deal. According to an excerpt from The Redskins Book that The Washington Post published, Riggins and Gibbs met after the former concluded a hunting trip.
Gibbs recalled that Riggins was still in his camouflage hunting outfit.
“Halfway through the conversation, he says, ‘You need to get me back there. I’ll make you famous.’ “I thought to myself, ‘Oh, my God, he’s an egomaniac.’ I thought, ‘I’ll get him back and then I’ll trade him. I’m not putting up with a fruitcake.’ So I fly back to Washington, and two days later he calls me. He says, ‘Joe, I made up my mind, and I’m going to play next season.’”
Riggins indeed played in 1981, running for 714 yards and a career-high 13 touchdowns.
Although Riggins only averaged 3.7 yards per carry in 1982, he scored four playoff touchdowns and helped Washington to a Super Bowl victory. Riggins earned All-Pro honors when he ran for an NFL-high 24 touchdowns in 1983.
From 1981-85, Riggins ran for 4,530 yards and 62 scores, which helped him earn a Pro Football Hall of Fame bust in 1992.