Legendary Washington Redskins running back John Riggins provided fans passing by the Tysons Corner Mall team store the unique opportunity to get an autograph and chat with the Super Bowl XVII MVP Saturday afternoon.
Riggins, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, sat with sharpies and signed jerseys, posters, and footballs for those who purchased tickets. For many, Riggins’ game-clinching 4th-and-inches touchdown run against the Dolphins has solidified their fandom and became a canonized play in their sports history.
As a fan brought him the poster of the iconic run, Riggins, who played for the Redskins from 1976-1985, joked that the image had been reproduced so much that now you can’t see Dolphins head coach Don Shula’s angry face in the background.
“Some of [people’s] greatest moments are wrapped around their football team. To be a part of that is pretty special,” Riggins told the Redskins Blog. “You get to meet a lot of interesting people so that’s what makes it kind of fun and seeing how you’ve impacted a lot of lives. I never think of it that way, but the truth of the matter is, it does happen.”
Some fans testified that the run was one of the top moments of their lives. Riggins, who typically attends several events like this each year, said it helps keep things in perspective for him.
“Whenever you feel you’re maybe not as happy or carefree as you could be, you hear something like that and you go, ‘Hey!,'” Riggins said. “It’s always there if you want it.”
The event was the first of many the team store hopes to host, bringing back Redskins alumni to meet members of the DMV community.
“We jumped at the opportunity to get a Hall of Fame player,” said Ryan Pope, a team store employee who helped facilitate the meet-and-greet. “It’s a great opportunity to have him come in to see people during the holiday season.”
Of course, Riggins was happy to expand on his career in between autographs. He recalled his joy just to make the Superbowl in 1983, not even necessarily win it. The biggest challenge — beating the Cowboys that year in the conference championship — fulfilled his biggest dream. In Pasadena, he was “playing with house money.”
“The weird thing is you win one of them and then all of a sudden it’s your inevitable right to play in the Super Bowl,” Riggins said. “You think you’re going to win them all. The next year we went to Tampa, it didn’t turn out that way.”
One fan wore his Kansas Jayhawks jersey from his time in college and Riggins mentioned he still has about 160 acres in northeast Kansas where he enjoys hunting in his spare time. He even made a television show about his experiences.
Riggins still enjoys going back to Canton each year, reuniting with the football fraternity, and interacting with the fans along the parade.
“It’s almost once you’re inducted into [the Pro Football Hall of Fame], you’re fraternal from the very beginning,” Riggins said of other members. “You go back one day out of every year and people are going to make you think that once, you were king.”
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