Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
18 of 30
Gerald Riggs, Atlanta Falcons
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images) /

. RB. (1982-88). Gerald Riggs. 13. player. 44

  • Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor (2013)
  • Franchise leader in rushing attempts (1,587), rushing yards (6,631)
  • 3x Pro Bowl (1985-87)
  • Second-Team All-Pro (1985)

Let’s be totally honest here. Losing a potentially transcendent running back in the midst of his prime due to injury in the form of William Andrews was terrible. He was on a path that would have surely put him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, it did give way to one of the greatest silver linings in NFL history.

Gerald Riggs was already on the Falcons roster for a few years heading into the 1984 NFL season. He was the No. 9 overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft out of Arizona State. Though he had 13 career rushing touchdowns during his first two seasons in the league, Riggs would breakout in a big way when the Falcons needed him most in 1984.

That would be the first of three-straight 1,000 rushing yard campaigns for Riggs with the Falcons. He rushed for a career-high 13 touchdowns on 353 carries for 1,486 yards that season. Riggs would back that up with his best season of his NFL career.

In 1985, Riggs led the league in rushing attempts with 397, as he bruised his way to 1,719 yards and 10 touchdowns. He earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl that season, rattling three in a row through the 1987 campaign.

Riggs would play his first seven of 10 professional seasons in Atlanta. He was traded right before the 1989 NFL season to the Washington Redskins. In his final NFL season in 1991, he rushed for 10 touchdowns and won Super Bowl XXVI over the Buffalo Bills in his final professional game.

But Riggs is obviously best remembered for being one of the best running backs in football in the mid-1980s. He remains the franchise record holder for most career rushing attempts (1,587) and rushing yards (6,631) going on 30 years since he last played for the Falcons.

Riggs will never earn Canton enshrinement, as his body of work has gotten lost in the shuffle over the years. However, he did earn the Falcons organization’s highest honor by being inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2013. A punishing runner and a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield, Riggs certainly has a claim as the best tailback in Falcons history.