Entering the 1983 NFL season with the Washington Redskins, much was not expected from the 34-year-old running back John Riggins. Despite coming off a year that ended with him winning the Super Bowl MVP during the Redskins’ win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII, Riggins had not finished a season with at least 1,000 rushing yards since 1979.
Even though others were skeptical of how well the running back could perform in 1983, Washington made sure to quickly erase any of those doubts. Through the Redskins first four games of the year, Riggins had already carried the ball 105 times for 356 yards and scored four touchdowns.
As the season moved on, the running back actually appeared to get better with each week that passed by. By Week 12, Riggins had accumulated 950 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns on 269 carries.
Since the running back was past the days of blowing by people with any sort of speed, Washington used him more as a battering ram to wear down the opposing defense. By the end of most games, the Redskins opponents were exhausted and sore from trying to bring down the 230 pound bruiser that was Riggins.
Washington’s Week 14 win over the Atlanta Falcons was the only game during the 1983 season where Riggins couldn’t find the endzone; he scored at least one touchdown in 14 of the 15 games he played in that year.
In helping the Redskins win their final nine match-ups in the regular season, the running back finished the year with a total of 375 carries for 1,347 yards and a whopping 24 touchdowns. He’s led an incredible life off the field, too, from cameos in your favorite crime shows to an infamous drunken run-in with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor:
Nicknamed “Diesel” during his playing days, Riggins was Washington’s goal line weapon in 1983. Of the 24 touchdowns he scored that year, 21 of them came on rushes of three yards or less.
Washington and their beast of a running back were able to make it back to the Super Bowl for the second straight season, but were blown out of the water by a talented Los Angeles Raiders team who were led by their own talented running back in Marcus Allen.
Despite their Super Bowl loss, the Redskins’ 1983 season is still one of the most impressive in NFL history. Their offense scored a then-league record 541 points and their defense finished the year with an astounding 61 takeaways.
As for Riggins, his 1,347 rushing yard in 1983 still stand as the most ever during a single-season by a running back aged 34 or older. His 24 touchdowns also set an NFL record at the time and remained that way until Emmitt Smith found the end zone 25 times in 1995 with the Dallas Cowboys.
Riggins went on to play two more years with Washington before retiring after the 1985 season. He was honored for his career excellence in 1992 when he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He definitely did not have the flashiest or most entertaining season ever by an NFL running back back in 1983. However, his age-defying accomplishments that year still make for one of the most impressive seasons by any player in the league’s history.