In the Alabama high school coaching community, the moment you hear the name Jamie Riggs several thoughts flood your mind: You think of T. R. Miller, you think of championships, you think of class, and you think of that infamously familiar red neck tie, tattered and frayed by years of Friday night battles. There is something special about a good tie. It is the fabric woven from several pieces of materials of varying shapes and sizes, crafted together by skilled hands that form a finely shaped tie. A good coach is like the tie-maker; he takes boys of varying shapes, sizes, and talents and he crafts them together with skilled hands to assemble a team. For 30 years, Jamie stood on the sidelines wearing a tie, building successful football teams, creating a coaching legacy, and shaping boys into young men of character and integrity.
As a young football fan growing up in Brewton, AL, Jamie watched the Tigers of Ol’ Miller High march up and down fabled Rotary Field, dreaming of playing under the Friday night lights for T.R. Miller. In 1970, his dream came true and over the course of his high school career, Jamie played for three different head coaches, all of whom played important roles in shaping his own coaching philosophy. Mack Wood taught him that football was a tough game meant to be played by tough people. Larry Rampey modeled a level of enthusiasm about life and football that he had never experienced, and Frank Cotten taught him the importance of becoming a master motivator, convincing his players to play hard every Friday night. Every team Jamie Riggs coached exhibited all of these characteristics. And, the very town that molded him would beckon him to return. And with his bright red tied in tow, the two brought a community together through the T.R. Miller spirit.
After graduating from The University of Alabama, Coach Riggs spent the next 5 years as an assistant coach. He made stops at Winston County, McGill-Toolen, and Opp. In 1983 he returned to T.R. Miller as the defensive coordinator for three seasons, helping to lead the tigers to the school’s second state championship in 1984. He was given the opportunity to begin his head coaching career at Opp High School in 1986. Three years later, Jamie returned home to Brewton to begin a legendary run at his alma mater.
In 27 years at T.R. Miller he collected 293 wins, including 117 in the 1990s. That number of victories stands as the most of any classification during that decade. He led the Tigers to the state championship game eight times, winning four AHSAA state championships. Largely because of his success at his beloved T.R. Miller, Riggs was inducted into the AHSAA Hall of Fame, Class of 2010. His final record as a head coach was 305-62. His contributions to the football coaching community in the state of Alabama are unparalleled. Jamie is responsible for forming this coaches’ association in 2005 and serving as its president for the first 9 years. He also served on the AHSAA District 1 Board for 19 years and the AHSAA Central Board of Control for 4 years.
These accomplishments will forever be credited to his name, but the numbers and awards and achievements do not adequately represent Jamie Riggs’ legacy. Coach Riggs’ teams were known for their toughness, their enthusiasm, their heart, and their class. They were known for their stoic demeanor during an eerily silent pre-game warm up routine that intimidated opposing coaches; for they knew Coach Riggs’ teams did their talking with their helmets and shoulder pads. They were known for being a group of sometimes average athletes who, with Jamie as their leader, became spectacular teams. He believes in hard work, the importance of community and team spirit, and earning the respect of players.
Longtime friend and Head Assistant Coach Marc Edge had this to say about Jamie: “There is a lot of lip service given to ‘team’ but Coach Riggs embodied this concept at T.R. Miller. Of all the things I’ve learned from him over the years it was the importance of team building. It was always all about the team, not the individual. He understood the secret of team building, of using personal toughness, courage and sacrifice for the betterment of the team. He masterfully crafted the dynamic of a group of young men working together to achieve a goal. ‘Coach Riggs’, ‘T.R. Miller’ and ‘Team’ go hand in hand.”
For all the wins and all the championships, Jamie’s true legacy was how he excelled at taking the average athlete and developing him into an exceptional man who is worthy of wearing the coveted jersey with “T.R. Miller” stitched across the back. He is the master tie maker, the model of leadership, and a true legend in high school football in the state of Alabama.
Today, the ALFCA is honored to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Jamie Riggs.