Top 50 Falcons: No. 8, Gerald Riggs

Gerald Riggs, Atlanta Falcons

Gerald Riggs rushed for 6,631 yards as a Falcon, a mark that has stood for 28 years. (Getty Images)

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

Gerald Riggs, Atlanta Falcons

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

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