Jamie Riggs went ahead and posed the question he figured so many of those in attendance at Houston Academy on Monday night were wondering about.
“First of all, why in the world would you want to come out of retirement and go to Houston Academy?” Riggs said.
Then the new head coach of the Raiders, who has won more football games (305) over 27 years than Houston Academy has won (259) in its 47 years of fielding a team, went down a list of why he wanted to tackle such a challenge.
“I don’t mind telling you that I’ve always felt that I was in God’s will to be a football coach,” Riggs said. “That’s what I was intended to do, and I just wasn’t quite through yet.”
Perhaps more than anything, though, the coach who led his alma mater of T.R. Miller in Brewton to four state championships before retiring in February of 2016, was simply ready for a different kind of challenge.
“I never said I wasn’t ever going to coach again,” Riggs said. “The last couple of years I really was just looking for the right opportunity. For some reason, when this came open I just felt like this was the right opportunity.”
Riggs was hired last week by Houston Academy and was formally introduced during a press conference in the school library before a large gathering of supporters, players and cheerleaders on Monday night.
Riggs takes the place of Jimmy Addison, who was relieved of his duties following this past season. Addison went 60-52 during his 11-year tenure at the school and his team reached the state playoffs eight times, but the Raiders went 0-10 this past season and are currently on a 19-game losing streak. Houston Academy has missed postseason play the past three seasons.
None of that discourages the 62-year-old Riggs, who indicated he knows this won’t be a quick fix when he said, “I think I have plenty of miles left in my road.”
“It’s not going to get done quickly and it’s not going to be easy, but my vision for Houston Academy football would be that adults and students that are part of Houston Academy would feel like without a doubt that this is the best high school football experience in the city of Dothan,” Riggs said. “It will take a while to get there, but that’s my intention to make sure that it happens.”
Riggs compiled a 293-62 record at T.R. Miller. Before arriving at T.R. Miller, Riggs was the head coach at Opp for three years. His overall record including Opp and T.R. Miller is 305-81.
T.R. Miller made the state playoffs every year under Riggs’ guidance and won Class 4A state titles in 1991, 1994 and 2000, and won the Class 3A state title in 2002.
Riggs was inducted into the Alabama High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2010.
Those impressive credentials quickly got the attention of those on the football team who were part of the selection committee.
William Lee, a quarterback, and Henry Beckett, a kicker, took part in the interview process with Riggs. Both will be seniors next season. It didn’t take either long to realize he was the right choice.
“There are a lot of great things about coach Riggs other than just the statistics,” Lee said. “He’s a great guy. He’s a great team builder and that’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
Beckett said the players on the committee were shown a list of Riggs’ accomplishments before they met with him.
“We were reading over it and we were like, ‘Wow,’” Beckett said. “A bunch of us, when we walked out, said we should just hire him – just go for it – right now. I think it’s going to be great. I like his attitude about team building – how no one person should take credit for everything.”
Riggs calls himself a “team builder” and spoke about how it takes everyone involved to pull together if success is to follow.
“One of my goals is going to be trying to bring the entire Houston Academy community together, because we need everyone to be a part of this if we are going to be able to play the kind of football we like to play,” Riggs said. “If we can do that, then I think we have a chance to do some things that one day might be pretty special.”
After staying away from coaching during the 2016 season, Riggs spent the past year as an assistant football coach working with the offensive line at Leeds High School near Birmingham, where his son, Mikel Riggs, served as offensive coordinator.
“I believe you have to run the ball first so you can make first downs and you can score when you get on the goal line,” Riggs said of his offensive philosophy. “And I believe in throwing the play-action pass.
“More than anything else, defensively, I believe in running to the football and being good tacklers. The scheme that you run isn’t quite as important to me as doing those fundamentals right.”
Riggs expects to begin work at Houston Academy in about three weeks. He’s eager to become part of the HA family.
“I was really impressed with the dedication and commitment that they had to doing something about their football program,” Riggs said of the interview process. “That really made a difference for me.
“I talked to students, I talked to administrators, I talked to a lot of people over here and they were all dedicated to that. That got my attention.”