Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Catching Up with Gerald Riggs, Jr.

Eight years ago today, National Signing Day 2002, Gerald Riggs, Jr. sat atop the recruiting world. Voted Mr. Tennessee Football during his junior year at Red Bank High School, Riggs also led his team to the 2000 state title. Numerous publications and experts tabbed Riggs as the premier player in his graduating class.

The bloodlines were in place as well, as his father, Gerald Riggs, Sr. was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Atlanta Falcons during a ten year NFL career.

After an injury-plagued career at the University of Tennessee, Riggs, Jr. went undrafted. Still looking to break camp with an NFL team, Riggs, Jr has been working out intensely in Atlanta.

Today, however, it was his younger brother's turn to go through the process. Cody Riggs signed his letter of intent with the University of Florida, who not so coincidentally had the number one ranked class in the country according to at least three major publications.

Riggs, Jr. took some time out of his day to talk with The Banter about Signing Day, a UT-filled Super Bowl and many other things. He was clearly excited for his brother and from our brief encounter seems like a great guy who was extremely personable.

Here is a brief transcript of our conversation:

TheSportsBanter: What have you been up to since graduation (UT Class of 2006)?
Gerald Riggs, Jr: I played a couple years [Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Rhein Fire] and have been doing radio and television the last two and a half years waiting to get another opportunity.

TSB: Have you gotten any interest?
GRJ: A little here and there but they never make any moves. It's frustrating because I know I can play. I just have to make people remember somehow.

TSB: Back in 2002, you were rated by many people as the #1 recruit in the country, what was the recruiting process like for you?
GRJ: It was fun going on my visits and talking to coaches, meeting potential teammates, but towards the end, you just want it to be over so you can move on.

TSB: What, if anything, do you remember about signing day?
GRJ: Mine was pretty boring actually because it was a done deal about a week before.

TSB: Do you follow the happenings on Signing Day each year?
GRJ: No, not really. I only did this year because my bro was coming out this year, but normally, no.

TSB: Your brother was ranked as one of ESPNU's Top 150. Where is he heading to college?
GRJ: He's going to be a Gator.

TSB: Did you have any advice for him on the whole process?
GRJ: I just told him do go where he feels at home and where he has a real opportunity to play the kind of football he is used to, which is a very high level (St. Thomas Aquinas in Miami, FL who finished the year ranked #27 in the nation).

TSB: Were you able to make it to any of his games this season?
GRJ: Yes, I flew down to see them play Byrnes (SC) who finished #36 in the nation.

TSB: Reports have your brother weighing in at 154 lbs. Did he lose the weight room key?
GRJ: (Laughs) He's 175 lbs. now, but he'll gain weight. That won't be a problem because he's still growing.

TSB: I'm sure he would still run me over at 154 lbs.
GRJ: (Laughs) Nah, he's a corner, speed demon. He would just run by you.

TSB: Your dad was a Pro Bowler, you played in the NFL, and now your little brother is a top recruit. I can only imagine what your backyard football games are like.
GRJ: (Laughs) Well, he was too young when dad was still able to run around like that, but they still get pretty serious.

TSB: What do you think of the coaching situation at UT?
GRJ: I think we have a great coach in place, a quality character guy that will instill loyalty and discipline in the program as well as put a great product on the field.

TSB: Do you stay in touch with Coach Fulmer?
GRJ: No, not at all.

TSB: Was it a messy situation while you were there?
GRJ: I wouldn't say messy, but we didn't see eye to eye on some things, and that caused some things to happen which I didn't take kindly to. So, there was no connection once I left school.

TSB: Do you keep in touch with any of your former teammates?
GRJ: Oh yeah many as I can. We all care about what's going on, and we developed a special bond.

TSB: You have three former teammates playing in the Super Bowl (Robert Meachem, Jabari Greer, and Marvin Mitchell) plus Peyton Manning is a fellow UT alumnus. So , what is your pick?
GRJ: Don't get me wrong, I love those guys. In fact, I want them to win, but I just don't see it... I'm gonna say the Colts. Peyton is simply the best at diagnosing the defense and beating the blitz. Their defense is fast, and they create turnovers, and I just think the experience of being there before will be too much.

TSB: Personally, I think if the Saints can keep it close, Drew Brees can find a way to lead them to a win. That would be huge for the city of New Orleans.
GRJ: Yeah, it would. I really want to see them take it home, but the football mind in me just can't say they will. For them to win they'd have to get out in front, and I mean like 14 or 17 by the middle of the 2nd, but I don't see that.

TSB: Interesting. We will have to see. Where are you training during the offseason?
GRJ: I have been working really hard in Chattanooga and Atlanta.

TSB: Well, thanks again for your time and best of luck to you and your brother.
GRJ: Thanks to you too.

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