Argos hopeful Riggs not giving up on dream

Gerald Riggs loses the handle on the ball during Toronto Argonauts training camp on Friday. (CRAIG...

Gerald Riggs loses the handle on the ball during Toronto Argonauts training camp on Friday. (CRAIG ROBERTSON, QMI AGENCY)

BILL LANKOFF, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:29 AM ET

Gerald Riggs is familiar with having his hopes and aspirations horribly crushed.

The former Tennessee Volunteers star is making his second appearance at the Argonauts rookie camp.

So far, it has started out with as much promise as in 2011, when he came close to becoming Cory Boyd’s running mate.

He’s just hoping it doesn’t end the same way.

That would be sitting back home in Ringold, Ga., injured, frustrated and looking at a career tarring roofs instead of tearing through defences.

“Everything seemed to be going well and then the injury happened. So it was very frustrating, but at the same time I’ve had injuries before. So I knew how to handle it and work to get another oppportunity. And, fortunately, it came.”

Opportunity has often knocked for Riggs. The only problem is he keeps getting the door slammed on his foot.

Literally.

Ever since breaking his leg and suffering ligament damage in his ankle his senior season at Tennessee, there have been recurring leg injuries — like the one that cut short his training camp with Toronto last year.

While Boyd rumbled for his second consecutive 1,000-yard season on the ground, Riggs was rehabilitating his leg one more time. He worked out in gyms, at home, and finally, at work, where he started a commerical roofing business. The closest he got to a CFL game was his television screen.

“We got the games (in Georgia) and I watched a lot of them. It was frustrating knowing all the guys, knowing I could’ve been an integral part of the games it was tough to watch.”

Watching is about as close to a pro football game he’s been able to get since leaving college. His has been the ultimate hard-luck story.

He made a name for himself as a junior when he scampered for 1,107 yards and six touchdowns on 192 carries with Tennessee. But the leg injury killed his draft chances.

He has been an excellent football player by reputation only ever since. He made the Miami Dolphins practice squad in 2006 as a free agent, but was released two days later. He was signed by the Chicago Bears the next season, but was released before training camp.

He has been out of football three of the past four years and is now just a season short of hitting 30 candles on the birthday cake.

“I went to work on my own. I didn’t allow myself too much idle time to think about it,” Riggs said Friday of his release by the Argos last year.

But time is running against him. He has not played a game of significant football since leaving Tennessee. He has looked impressive in the first three days of camp but the competition ramps up with the veterans scheduled to show up Sunday.

“That ratchets it up a bit. I like it when the veterans come in because things pick up. Things start going a little faster,” said Riggs. “Obviously the rookie camp helps because it gives us a chance to get familiar with the playbook. Now it’s not so much mental ... you can cut loose and let your abilities kick in. It’s a fun time.”

Perhaps. But it is also a time when anxiety begins to creep into minds and every touch is magnified; every misstep is replayed, if not in the video room, then on the rocky road to Dreamsville.

Head coach Scott Milanovich has been pretty much non-committal in commenting on individual performances. He allowed Friday “both tailbacks” (Allen Ervin and Riggs) have looked impressive. But it is equally true that Riggs faces backfield competition that includes Boyd, Chad Kackert, Jeff Johnson and, depending on where they line him up, Andre Durie.

Boyd is established as the starter with 2,500 yards the past two seasons. Kackert rushed for 139 yards, two TDs and a player of the week award in a game against Edmonton and Durie has shown all the earmarks of being close to a break-out season.

“I don’t worry about that. I worry about learning the plays, running the plays correctly, doing what I can do. I can’t be concerned about what other people are doing. If the coaches see fit that I fit in here I’ll be very appreciative,” Riggs said. “If they don’t, I move on.”

Where that move would be remains uncertain. He has considered retirment several times. He may be just one cut away from making it official.

“I’ve got the commercial construction business going now. We do big stores like Walmart, Cosco, big malls. I always like construction but I had to get used to it. I got up there myself and put tar on the roofs because I figured if I was going to be sending guys up there I better know how to do it myself. It’s tough work ... not easy.”

But then ever since school went out, for Riggs, nothing has ever come easy.

 


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