Football: Riggins’ playing days aren’t over

The last game of Willie Riggins III’s high school football career came earlier than expected. It came as a shock to a number of people when Greenport/Southold/Mattituck cancelled the final two games on its schedule last year because it didn’t have enough players to field a team.

The 2-4 Porters were finished six games into an eight-game regular season, but Riggins wasn’t. Shortly after the season was abandoned, Riggins began working out for the next phase of his football life.

All of Riggins’ training and workouts haven’t gone for naught. The senior lineman recently received an email from the Morrisville State (N.Y.) coach, offering him a roster spot on the NCAA Division III team. Riggins didn’t wait long to respond. That same night he called the coach and verbally committed.

“The best thing about this is my dream is coming true,” Riggins said. “Everything I wished for since I was a little kid is coming true. I get to play college football.”

Shortly after Riggins called Morrisville, he made sure that Porters coach Jack Martilotta, who he described as a “second father,” was the first to hear the news.

“There was a kid who realized he had potential and nothing was going to stop him from reaching it,” said Martilotta.

Morrisville went 9-2 last season, defeating Utica in the Eastern College Athletic Conference North Central Football Bowl Championship game.

Football is more than just an extracurricular activity for Riggins. “It’s a major part of my life,” he said.

Riggins said he first started playing football when he was 5 or 6 years old. He has memories of being a youngster and talking to his father about playing college football and for the Miami Dolphins, his favorite NFL team.

Riggins has been a fixture with the Porters for a while. A four-year varsity player, he became a starter during the middle of his sophomore season.

This past season Riggins, who played guard and defensive tackle, was named an all-league player. He was ninth on the team in tackles with eight; two were assisted and two were for losses.

“He gave you everything he had,” Martilotta said. “He spent more time in the weight room through his high school career than anybody.”

Martilotta recalls Riggins committing to training toward the end of his freshman year and asking what he needed to do to earn a starting position.

The answer: Get stronger.

Riggins apparently took that advice to heart. He hit the weight room hard.

Martilotta said Riggins has embraced the training required of a football player. “He loves it,” the coach said. “He truly, truly enjoys it. He wanted to lift weights and he wanted to work.”

The 6-foot, 280-pound Riggins said hard work and dedication made all the difference for him. “You have to be dedicated,” he said. “If you’re not dedicated, you can’t do anything.”

Riggins said he likes the feeling of family he experienced while playing for the Porters. He said he sensed a similar feeling when he made his official recruiting visit to Morrisville.

“Morrisville welcomed me with open arms,” said Riggins, who also considered attending Fairleigh Dickinson University. “I fell in love with the campus when I got there. I thought it would be a good place to spend four years.”

What was Martilotta’s reaction when he received that piece of good news from Riggins?

“That grin went from ear to ear,” Martilotta said. “That would make anyone feel real good.”

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