Univeristy at Buffalo’s Taylor Riggins has always been a player to watch.
The senior defensive end is now getting national attention, making the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Award. Both honor the best defensive player in the country.
“It’s exciting, but I don’t have it yet,” said Riggins. “I’m trying to get better each and every day and make the guys around me better.”
Riggins had a breakout junior season, tallying 8.5 sacks, which was second in the MAC, 50 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 3 fumble recoveries.
“We really look for him on and off the field to be the leader he’s become,” said Lance Leipold, head coach of the UB football team. “We watched him accept his role, really play with his hand on the ground for the first time, and really learn the craft of playing defensive end.”
The news did not come as a surprise to one of Riggins’ coaches at Aquinas either. During his time with the Lil Irish, Riggins helped lead the team to two state championships and three sectional titles.
“He’s going to work towards his goal of being the best all the time, so it didn’t really come as a shock to me,” said Derek Annechino, Aquinas head football coach. “I think it’s even great that he’s coming out of a mid-major and still getting these accolades. It says a lot about the work he puts in.”
Riggins is on these preseason watch lists with defensive players from Power 5 schools who are already slated to be first and second round NFL Draft picks in 2021.
“It definitely gives you a little confidence boost that you can hang with the big guys,” said Riggins. “Anyone in the Mid-America Conference or any group of 5 conferences can hang with the Power 5 schools.”
Getting the attention before the season begins could prove to help Riggins get noticed by NFL scouts, and be on their radar before the Combine.
“As we tell them now, you’re on people’s lists,” said Leipold. “Now they have to continue to play hard, work hard, and hopefully those things will lead to opportunities past college.”