Riggs to savor senior year

Eighteen months ago, Gerald Riggs Jr., couldn't wait to escape Tennessee's football program. Now he's determined to savor every moment he has left in it.

Frustrated with his lack of playing time, Riggs planned to transfer to another school as soon as the 2003 season ended. Then everything changed. When Woody McCorvey left to join the staff at Mississippi State, UT hired Trooper Taylor as its new running backs coach. Taylor and Riggs hit it off so well that Riggs decided to stick around for another year.

The rest, as they say, is history. Riggs rushed for 1,107 yards last fall and is a serious candidate for the Heisman Trophy heading into his senior year. As a result, he now relishes every minute he has left as a Vol.

"Not many people get this opportunity in life," he said. "When you get it, you' ve got to make the best of it."

Toward that end, Riggs refuses to acknowledge the pressure of carrying Tennessee's offense now that he's the unquestioned centerpiece of the attack.

"You don't worry about what this person is saying or these people are saying," he said. "You just go out and do what you normally do, have fun with it. Whatever happens, you just roll with it."

Barring the unforeseen, Riggs should have a memorable senior season. He's got a great offensive line in front of him. He's got plenty of carries coming his way. He's got a capable passing attack to keep opposing defenses honest. And he's got a healthy body. Dating to a broken ankle suffered as a high school senior, he was slowed by nagging injuries the past four years. But he says he's in the best shape of his life heading into 2005.

"Maybe in the past I'd have something ailing, something hurting," he said. "As far as being totally healthy and ready to run, this is probably the best shape I've been in."

Clearly, Gerald Riggs Jr. is in great shape, mentally and physically. An amazing transformation has taken place in his life. Once upon a time, UT football left a bad taste in his mouth. Now he's happy to savor the flavor.

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