By Owen Gotimer
Ashburn (January 27, 2016) — Stone Bridge High School senior Lawton Riggs has made a commitment to continue his football career at James Madison University starting in the 2016-2017 school year.
“It feels good to know where you will be the next four years, and especially for it to be at such an amazing place like JMU, that makes me very excited,” the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Riggs said. “This past year has been a great experience. All of the coaches I have met during this process are amazing, but I think I’ve found my home.”
After moving from Florida to Ashburn at a young age, Riggs will pack up shop once again as he takes the 100-mile journey southwest to Harrisonburg next fall.
“Playing football in the CAA and close enough for my family to see me on a regular basis were very important to me. JMU is an outstanding program and is building a dynamic football tradition,” Riggs said. “It has solid academics and a great business program – I’m looking to major in accounting or finance. The combination of these two facets – academics and highly competitive football – are a dream come true. Coach Houston and his staff are building something I am anxious and proud to be a part of.”
Hired just over a week ago, James Madison head coach Mike Houston will take over a 9-3 team which made headlines in 2015 as one of the top Division I FCS programs in the country.
Riggs will try to improve on the Dukes’ No. 11 finish last fall with the help of Briar Woods graduates Chase Brown (2015), Tristan Carter (2015) and Matt Wolcott (2014); Heritage graduates Justin Bethea (2014) and Grant Westbrook (2014); Stone Bridge graduate Richard Xu (2014); and Loudoun County senior Ryan Horner.
“I hope to compete from day one to make the team and my position stronger. I bring a motor and get after it mentality,” said Riggs who will play tight end or H-back for the Dukes. “In high school and throughout the recruiting process, the coaches realized I will compete no matter what the circumstances are, and I had a high motor that kept me going play after play no matter the score. Every tight end loves to catch the ball, but I had just as much fun blocking for Joe Thompson, Joshua Breece, Chase Ridley and Dewayne Winston and downfield for Brett Smedley – when I could keep up with him. I look forward to helping JMU’s weapons succeed on offense and hopefully becoming one.”
Riggs – along with Breece, Ridley, Smedley, Thompson and Winston – led the Stone Bridge Bulldogs on a tear late in the season, rattling off six straight wins leading up to the VHSL 5A state championship game before falling to the Highland Spring Springers in the state final on December 12.
“With what the team went through this year – and none of our guys quitting when they very well could’ve – says a lot about the program and my teammates. Our end of season run – winning six games straight and beating the No. 1, 2 and 4 seeds – was incredible,” Riggs said. “Playing in the state championship game, for a school like Stone Bridge – with all the rich tradition and legacy – meant the world to me. Of course, I hoped for a different outcome in the game but still the experience was a one of a kind thing that not every football player has the opportunity to experience. In the end we made our opportunities, and that’s a credit to our coaching staff and players.”
At a young age, Riggs found himself playing football in the yard with the older kids which he noted led him to be tougher, but also finds that even as a senior in high school, he’s still striving for perfection.
“Football humbles you on every play. There’s always something to improve – missed blocks, poor technique – the film never lies,” Riggs said. “Perfection is always the pursuit, but learning from the failures that occur on every play is a key part of that journey.”
While Riggs will continue his football dream in college, he is one of the few remaining, traditional three-sport athletes in Loudoun, competing for the Bulldogs’ baseball, basketball and football teams. When he entered high school, Riggs thought his calling would be in baseball, not football – AND certainly, not basketball.
“During my first two years of high school I thought my future was as a baseball player. I played with some great players, high school coaches and travel coaches. After my junior year of football, a good growth spurt and a heart to heart conversation with coach Thompson, I decided to go for my dream of playing college football. Last summer was spent at football camps, instead of travel baseball parks,” Riggs said. “I never saw myself playing basketball in high school. It is just something I do for fun and to help me work on my agility and conditioning. I’m a perennial basketball bench warmer, but it’s the best seat in the house. If there’s a good lead at the end, watch for me and Andrew Vastardis. He’s leading me in points, but I have him in fouls.”