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Last year, Chris Riggs was playing football on a field without permanent seating and that had just gotten lights that would allow night games. If all goes as planned next season, Riggs could be playing a game in front of 107,000 people when his Western Kentucky Hilltoppers visit Tennessee.
The 2008 Spencer County graduate has turned a stellar high school football career into an opportunity to play Division 1 football at WKU as he was accepted as a walk-on recently and is currently playing on the scout team.
“I never thought I’d be playing Division I football. It’s amazing that I’ve got an opportunity to do so,” said Riggs.
The scout team’s duties are reserved for practice, and they routinely are asked to run the same schemes and plays that the coaching staff expects the upcoming opponents to run. It may not sound glorious, but Riggs said it’s a great learning opportunity.
“I play inside linebacker and we just run the defense of the team we’re playing that coming week. It’s a good experience and it will definitely make me a better player.”
Those who saw him play at Spencer County knew he had potential as he was the leading rusher on offense and a tough linebacker on defense. He had decent speed, was hard-nosed and demonstrated his strength not only on the field, but also as a championship-caliber weight-lifter.
Bears Coach Matt Powenski called Riggs one of the hardest-working players he’s ever had.
“His commitment to the game is unmatched,” said Powenski. “He is also a great person off the field. He had great grades and never got into trouble off the field. Chris deserves everything he gets, he has worked hard and I am proud to have coached him.”
Riggs’ status on the scout team does not yet earn him a spot on the traveling team and if Riggs fails to make it onto the playing field in an actual game this year, he could be awarded a red shirt season, which would leave him with four years of eligibility after this season.
That would not be a bad scenario for Riggs because WKU is completing a two-year transition into the Bowl Championship Division, and beginning next season, will be eligible for bowl games. As a fledgling program entering big time college football, the Hilltoppers are willing to play just about anyone for the guaranteed payout that will help pay for necessary changes like a stadium expansion. This past Saturday, they played at Indiana and have trips scheduled to Alabama and Kentucky this year. It’s an exciting time to be involved in WKU football, and Riggs could be there to help usher it in.
After one week on the field, the difference between high school and big-time college football is evident.
“The players are about twice the size and twice as fast. It’s a whole different ballgame,” said Riggs. “They take the best players from across the nation.”
But so far, Riggs is confident he’ll be able to hold his own.
“I believe I was one of the strongest freshmen coming in and about the right size for a linebacker,” said the five-foot eleven-inch 220 pound Riggs.
He said he’s currently running a 4.8 second 40 yard dash and would like to cut it down to a 4.7. His goal is to continue to work, improve and hopefully get some action on special teams and to make the traveling squad.
“That’s definitely my goal - playing time,” he said.
Riggs said he’s aware that just a few years ago, a young man like him in Spencer County may not have had this opportunity because football is only in its sixth year at the high school. He’s thankful for those who got the sport running at the school, and for the preparation he received under the coaches there.
“I never played football until my 8th grade year. I didn’t know anything about football. They (the coaches) did a great job of preparing me,” said Riggs.
He’s also thankful for the choice to head to Bowling Green and Western Kentucky.
“I’d be happy going to WKU even if I weren’t playing football.”