By Pete Thamel
Florida defensive back Cody Riggs, the Gators starting safety last season, said in a phone interview on Thursday that his decision to leave the school was rooted more in academics than football.
“This was the hardest decision I ever had to make,” Riggs said. “I love my teammates and the fans here. I really feel awful about leaving my teammates, especially a young secondary. This was something that I needed to do.”
Riggs started 26 games for three different defensive coordinators in his career at Florida and bristled at the notion that his departure had anything to do with fear of competition of younger players or unhappiness playing safety. Riggs came to Florida as a corner and switched to safety his junior season before getting injured. He started at both safety positions last season as a redshirt junior and stressed that the opportunity to return to cornerback didn’t factor into his decision.
“I’ve played every position (in the secondary),” he said. “If I wanted to leave to prepare myself to play corner in the NFL, I’d have done so (earlier).”
Riggs said that he plans to attend graduate business school and pursue either an MBA or a master's in science in business. He’s currently finishing his degree in Family Youth and Community Sciences, studying for the GMATs and doing an internship at a Boys & Girls Club in Gainesville.
Riggs sees going elsewhere for graduate school as a chance to expand his network. Riggs is the son of former NFL All-Pro running back Gerald Riggs. Cody Riggs said he grew up around a non-profit organization his parents started -- Florida Youth Track and Field.
“I want to impact my community with that degree,” he said. “When a student that isn’t an athlete goes somewhere else for graduate school, they’re applauded. Same for coaches when they leave a school and it’s better for their family and future. When an athlete does it, though, it’s viewed as a problem.”
Riggs is the eighth player to transfer from Florida since the end of the season, although he’s the only one who was a full-time starter. He said he leaves with no ill will toward his teammates, coach Will Muschamp or the staff. Riggs informed Florida of his decision weeks ago so they could use his scholarship for next season. He told them to release the news when it best suited them, as he did not want to be a negative distraction to the coaches who were out on the road recruiting. “Muschamp is the best coach I’ve ever had,” Riggs said. “His defense is always going to be good, regardless of who is back there. They have a lot of talent back there, it gives me a little peace knowing that they’re going to be OK.”