- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2001

CARLISLE, Pa. One of the greatest Washington Redskins ever was just another face in the crowd.
Hall of Fame running back John Riggins, one of the most colorful characters in National Football League history, arrived at Redskins training camp here yesterday and no one noticed.
Riggins spent nearly one hour in the stands watching the first practice of training camp after security guards refused to let him pass through the ropes to the sidelines without a credential.
Riggo? A bleacher bum?
The guards weren't the only ones who didn't know Riggins.
Dressed in a gray jacket and wearing a blue baseball cap over his graying hair, Riggins sat surrounded by more than 250 fans and no one knew him. Fans who cried out to players for autographs didn't even realize they were just a few feet from one of the NFL's most reclusive stars and most reluctant autograph signers. (Indeed, Riggins recently received $75,000 to appear at a card show, his first signing session in 12 years. Fans at the show in Chantilly, Va., paid $175 an autograph.)
Riggins eventually attracted the attention of television cameras and then the Redskins from the action on the field to his spot in the stands. Redskins officials immediately sent passes to Riggins, who joined owner Dan Snyder on the field for the rest of the morning session and afternoon practice.
There were no hard feelings on the part of Riggins, who didn't have a proper credential when he was denied admission by guards. Riggins chatted with old friends and talked of the hangouts he frequented when he attended the Redskins' camps here from 1976 to 1979 and 1981 to 1985. He planned to look for a few watering holes that the old "5 o'clock club" a clique of hard-drinking teammates led by Riggins used to close down.
Riggins has been reclusive since he retired. He rarely talks to the media. Close friends say he is often embarrassed by the "hero worship" of fans and that he tries to blend into crowds. It's a stark contrast to the flamboyant Riggins of his playing days, when he was known for hard-drinking, fun-loving times.
Riggins once told Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to "loosen up, Sandy, baby" at a dinner party and then fell asleep beneath the table.
He sat out the 1980 season in a contract dispute and returned the next year with a simple explanation: "I'm bored, I'm broke and I'm back."
Riggins wore hairstyles that ranged from a mohawk to an afro. He even lived for a short time in the '80s in a small warehouse at the old Redskins headquarters in Herndon. Riggins was drawing a six-figure salary but said he liked the warehouse because it was a cheaper alternative.
"I don't take too many things seriously," he said before his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
That, along with his role in producing some of the greatest moments in Redskins history, might explain his popularity with fans. After scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown to beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII, Riggins said jokingly, "Ron [Reagan] may be president, but tonight I'm king."
Riggins chatted with fellow Hall of Famers and Redskins greats Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff yesterday. Riggins and Jurgensen both appear on a local television show and are good friends.
That wasn't always the case with Riggins and Huff. The two had a chance meeting in the parking lot outside Redskin Park in the 1980s and nearly squared off.
Riggins had noticed Huff watching him closely during practice that day and confronted the linebacker afterward. Riggins questioned whether Huff thought he could tackle Riggins. Huff countered that he could, and had a ball been nearby the debate might have been settled on asphalt. Instead, the answer never came.
The two joked around in the stands yesterday as Snyder enjoyed the chatter of two of the greatest players in franchise history. Perhaps one day the matter will be settled.
And maybe the guards can watch from the stands.

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