Riggins has crushed all competition so far in this bracket, easily driving past Wade Stinson and Laverne Smith in the first two rounds. Facing him is fan favorite James Sims, about the only Cinderella left in our tournament. Sims has eliminated David Winbush and June Henley to claim this spot in the Sweet 16.
(2) John Riggins
Centralia-raised Riggins ran for Kansas from 1968-70, and I mean he ran and ran and ran. In 31 games for the Jayhawks, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry, finishing his Kansas career with 2659 rush yards, a mark that at the time broke Gale Sayers’ rushing record and still ranks 7th in the KU record books.
He was part of the 1968 Orange Bowl team, a year in which he was named first team All-Big 8. His senior year of 1970 also saw him pick up first team All-Conference honors. Both of his All-Big 8 honors had him listed at fullback.
Riggins was drafted 6th overall by the New York Jets in the 1971 NFL Draft. He spent five years with the Jets before signing as a free agent with the Washington Redskins, where he would spend the rest of his NFL career.
If you haven’t read about it yet and have some free time, his contract dispute a few years later with the Redskins is an interesting story. He wanted to renegotiate his deal, the Redskins refused, and he sat out the 1980 season. Joe Gibbs came to Kansas to re-recruit Riggins, and click the link if you want to find out what happened.
Riggins finished his NFL career with, well, a lot of NFL records - 20 if you believe Wikipedia. He totaled 11,352 rushing yards and 104 TDs. In addition, he was the MVP of Super Bowl XVII and an NFL Hall of Famer, class of 1992.
All of his success led to not only having his own ballad but several pretty cool nicknames, including “The Big Rig” and “The Diesel.” In addition, Riggins is enshrined in KU’s Ring of Honor at Memorial Stadium.
Riggins is one of four former KU players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
(6) James Sims
One of the more popular players of the past few years, Sims ran for the Jayhawks from 2010-2013, meaning he got an equal share of the Gill and Weis regimes. However, not even terrible coaching could keep Sims from running his way into the record books; he is currently third in career rushing yards (3592) and second in career rushing TDs (34) at KU. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry despite the fact that opposing defenses had absolutely no reason to fear the downfield passing game. He was also one of the more premier pass catchers in Kansas football history from the RB position, hauling in 72 receptions for 587 yards and two TDs.
Sims made an impact right away; the first time he saw action was KU’s second game of the year in 2010, when Sims started as a freshman, going for 101 yards and leading the Jayhawks past heavily-favored Georgia Tech. He was the first freshman in KU history to break the 100-yard mark in his KU debut.
He was finally named first team All-Big 12 his senior year (2003), which saw him rush for 1110 yards on only 230 attempts, good for a 4.8 average. That season included this enjoyable 230 yard, 3 TD effort against West Virginia, a 31-19 Kansas victory. You can relive those three touchdowns here.
Sims went undrafted but was picked up by the Green Bay Packers, however, he did not stick in the NFL.
Who was the greater Jayhawk? Register your vote in the comments below. Other matchups can be found here.