Cody Riggs talked to Irish Illustrated about the attraction of Notre Dame, the impact of his uncle, alumnus Bobby Brown, and where he’ll fit into the defense this summer when he enrolls.
Pete Sampson: What was the visit like on Monday, coming up to Notre Dame for the first time in five years?
Cody Riggs: I saw a lot of changes to the campus and there’s a lot of construction going on. The Gug, that’s changed around a lot. The campus, I’ve never seen that much snow on a campus before. Obviously it’s a different coaching staff than when I came up before, but besides that, I got the same feeling that I got in high school. But this time around my priorities are different.
PS: What was that feeling?
CR: I came for academic reasons and the school is just a perfect fit as far as the football and academics, the perfect combination of both. I basically went up there with the mindset that if everything was what I thought it was, I was going to pull the trigger and I did that. Everything was perfect. My family enjoyed it. My uncle, my step-dad, everyone enjoyed it and everything went according to plan.
I still have to take the GMAT. I still have to find a program, whether it be one year or two years, that allows me to get in that program that complies with my football schedule. I have to make sure that I get into a program like that. So I’m not stating a program as of right now, but my meetings with the academic people went very well, my meetings with the coaches went very well. Everything fit. My family liked it. It was a perfect a scenario for me.
PS: Even though it had been five years and it’s a new coaching staff up here, why do you think it felt the same as when you were a recruit coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale?
CR: As you guys know, I was really heavy on Notre Dame coming out of high school. I did enjoy my time there. But at the time I just felt it was best for me to come to Florida. This time around I feel Notre Dame is the place for me. It’s still the same. I get the same feel from it. I loved it when I was in high school, it’s just this time around it’s a much better fit for me.
PS: Fair to say that coming out of high school you made more of a football-weighted decision and this is more of an academic-weighted decision?
CR: You could say that. Florida is a great academic school, I’m not taking anything away from Florida. At this time in my life, if I have an opportunity to go to another school that’s just as good academically for my fifth year of eligibility, I’m going to do it. I said this in the article with Sports Illustrated, I don’t think it’s right that when an undergrad who’s a football player or an athlete, when they decide to go to another school, it’s frowned upon.
PS: I’m curious about that, because it almost seems like there would have been less blowback if you’d just declared for the NFL draft. Do you feel that way?
CR: Exactly. That’s just what you have to deal with when you’re an athlete. People don’t look at it from your point of view. They look at it from their point of view and what’s best for their team at the time.
PS: Did you give any thought about just going pro after this year?
CR: I did look into it. After my results came back, I thought I could jump up when they saw my 40 or saw my hips in drills and saw that I could play corner and maybe my draft stock goes up. But is it really worth it or should I come back and go to grad school and up my draft stock and have something else more than just an undergraduate degree to fall back on? I had to weigh my options.
PS: Did you get a mid-round grade?
CR: I didn’t get exact numbers, but I asked around and I have some friends that are in the NFL and I had them ask around for me. People came back and said there were a couple good grades. But I didn’t think it was worth it to take a risk like that when I have an extra year, to just throw that away.
PS: When you were up at Notre Dame talking football with the coaching staff, how do they see you fitting in?
CR: They’re putting in a new scheme right now because they have a new D-coordinator. Everybody is still getting familiar, but it’s an NFL defense and I just came from an NFL defense, so there’s a lot of the same concepts, a lot of the same terminology. I know how to play in that defense, whether that be at corner or safety, but most likely I’ll be at corner.
PS: What were your impressions of the Notre Dame coaches on Monday and who did you sit down with?
CR: I sat down with coach (Kerry) Cooks and coach (Tony) Alford. Coach (Brian) Kelly wasn’t there and the defensive coordinator wasn’t there, but I’m looking forward to talking with them today and over the next couple of days.
I like coach Cooks a lot. He seems like he knows what he’s doing. He has a lot of experience. He was very professional. I look forward to working with him.
PS: How did you start this process initially?
CR: When I asked for my release I put together a list of schools and Notre Dame was one of them. They contacted me back. That was either at the beginning of this month or maybe at the end of January. I thought about other schools as well, I’m not going to get into detail about that, but with Notre Dame I thought it was a school where I could go. For the reasons I left Florida, Notre Dame seemed like a school that I could go to.
PS: For people who didn’t watch Florida the last four years, describe your game. You started 26 games there, played three years at corner and last season at safety.
CR: I’m very versatile. I can play a lot of different positions. I can play in the box, I can play outside, I can play middle field safety, I’ve done a lot of different things for Florida, even on special teams. I’ve done a lot for Florida. I think my versatility is what helped me be a starter over these past four years that I’ve been here.
PS: In terms of your uncle Bobby Brown’s background up here, you came up to see him play when you were five-years old or something like that. What impact did that have in keeping Notre Dame on your mind?
CR: He always talks about Notre Dame, so it’s always been on my mind. That was one of the reasons why I was considering Notre Dame coming out of high school. But I don’t remember those visits much. He showed me the dorm that I used to stay in when I came up to visit, but I don’t remember that. But I do know there’s a lot of tradition there and a lot of history there and I do remember how the games were very exciting when I was younger. But that didn’t really play much into me deciding to go to Notre Dame.
PS: Maybe a different perspective on that question would be how much did Bobby’s Notre Dame experience impact this decision with him being a graduate, NFL player, then coming back to get his law degree here? He sort of maxed out the student-athlete experience.
CR: Yes. In that aspect, yes it did.
PS: What was his reaction when you told him you were doing this?
CR: He was happy to say the least. He’s very excited that I’m going to Notre Dame.
PS: I’ve talked to guys who have done the fifth year elsewhere leaving Notre Dame and they said it’s like being recruited all over again. Did it feel that way?
CR: A little bit, but once Notre Dame contacted me and we discussed everything as far as football and academics, I’m not about to start taking calls from a whole bunch of schools. A lot of schools contacted me and I basically told them that I’m not about to take five visits during my last semester at Florida when I’m trying to make grades. Once Notre Dame called me and one other school, that was it.
PS: So how would you summarize your four years at Florida and how much do you think that’s going to help you coming to Notre Dame considering the players your played against and the places you played in the SEC?
CR: I think it helps a lot. I had a great experience at Florida, played with a lot of great players, played under two great head coaches. I think playing under two staffs and playing against top competition, I think that will help me a lot as I go to Notre Dame because they have a lot of big games as well. The competition that I’ve played against is similar to what Notre Dame plays against.