While negotiating his final contract with the Redskins in the mid ’80s, John Riggins got to talking about the future with Jack Kent Cooke.
“What are you gonna do with the rest of your life?” the legendary owner asked the future Hall of Famer.
“I don’t know,” Riggins recalled responding. “I like to hunt and fish.”
“Oh my GOD, man, you can’t hunt and fish for the rest of your life,” Cooke answered.
“I tried it his way for a while, and it was fine,” Riggins told me this week. “But now I’m gonna go back to what I originally said.”
In other words, out of the radio studio and back into the wilderness. Last fall, if you’ll recall, Riggins was one of the harshest critics of Mike and Kyle Shanahan, repeatedly questioning the Redskins duo for their personnel moves and game management as an analyst on WTOP and MASN.
“I just see a franchise that is lost as it’s always been, it’s as lost as it’s ever been,” Riggins said in early November.
Not long after that, Riggins stopped offering Redskins commentary. In December, he posted a statement on Facebook saying, “It was getting really difficult to continue being the grumpy old man,” and “I have my limits, too.”
Riggins announced then that he would be pursuing his “true passion in life,” the great outdoors, and soon came word of a Riggins-themed outdoors show. The official press release was issued this week: Riggins will host a “celebrity-loaded” hunting and cooking show called “Riggo on the Range,” which is scheduled to begin airing on the Sportsman Channel in January.
“Each segment will follow Riggins around the world in pursuit of extraordinary hunting, outdoor and cooking adventures,” the release said, promising a program that melds the Hall of Famer’s sizable persona with outdoor and culinary advice.
“It’s the perfect office for me,” Riggins said this week. “There’s something about man and beast, or man and the outdoors, or man and chaos. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always been attracted to proving your worth against mother nature.”
During filming for the first 13 episodes, Riggins has already hunted wild turkey in Kansas and feral pigs in Texas. There are planned trips to New Mexico to hunt elk, to Wyoming to hunt antelope, and to Southeast Texas for ducks, doves and gator. He’d like to eventually go to Alaska for a brown bear hunt, and envisions potential overseas trips to Africa and Mongolia.
He has talked to celebrities like Russ Grimm and the governor of Kansas about joining him on hunts, although he’s open to just about anyone.
“Actors, NASCAR drivers, singers; I don’t care, as long as you have a little status,” he said, before wondering whether bloggers might work. “I’m trying to picture you with a gun in your hand,” Riggins said.
Yeah. Probably not.
The former running back said he has some expertise hunting pheasant and quail and has long been comfortable behind a grill despite no formal training, but he isn’t marketing himself as either a master chef or a professional hunter.
Still, he obviously loves both pursuits, and has the stories to back it up. And it was sure nice to hear him wax eloquent about the time he shot a leopard in Africa, and his wish to mount a stuffed warthog inside his bathroom, and how he hopes to visit Siberia, rather than hearing him run down another litany of Redskins missteps.
“I’ve always been drawn to the pioneers, the mountain men, the idea of being self-sufficient,” he said. “Basically being MacGyver back before there was MacGyver, making something happen yourself instead of running down to the local store. I think this is gonna be a nice fit for me.”
And let’s be honest; the world doesn’t exactly lack for Redskins commentary.
“After 40 years of football, I think it might be time to try something else,” he said. “I haven’t had ESPN on in about four months, so I guess I’m doing something right.”