Perryton graduate and Texas Tech wide receiver Dalton Rigdon embraces Red Raider interim head coach Sonny Cumbie during Senior Night in November. [Photo by Texas Tech athletics]
When Texas Tech plays in its final game of the year against Mississippi State in the 2021 AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Tuesday, one thing is for certain.
Texas Tech senior wide receiver Dalton Rigdon will play in his 37th and final game in a Red Raider uniform.
The pride of Perryton has spent the last five years proudly representing the school he was raised to love.
“It’s a bitter sweet feeling,” Rigdon said. “I grew up a Tech fan, and a huge Mike Leach fan. Getting to play my final game across from coach Leach is going to be special. Knowing I’ve played five years in a Tech uniform is surreal.
My dream was to always be a Texas Tech football player.”
Rigdon’s five years at Texas Tech has been a unique journey. Being undersized, but blazing fast, Rigdon originally signed to run track and field for the Red Raiders. He then earned an opportunity to walk on for former head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who saw something in the speedy Rigdon.
“I can’t thank track coach Wes Kittley enough for giving me the opportunity to begin with,” Rigdon said. “His son, Zach, then reached out. At that time Zach Kittley was a grad assistant on the football team. Fortunately, I was able to make a good impression, and the rest is history.”
Since joining the team in 2017, Rigdon has gone from a walk-on to earning a full athletic scholarship. He’s been through three head coaching changes, multiple position coaches, six quarterbacks, the COVID-19 pandemic, and returned to the field from multiple injuries.
Rigdon graduated in December, and he’s even a married man, exchanging vows to his wife, Kristina, last summer.
“I dont think anything can make me flinch these days,” Rigdon said. “It’s been a wild five years. It was rough going through COVID, and coming back from a couple injuries. There was some doubt if I wanted to comeback some days, but in the end I’m so glad I finished this run out. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Tulia head football coach, Steven Coursey, was Rigdon’s head coach at Perryton in 2016. The two built a very close relationship they maintain to this day. Coursey doesn’t miss many of Rigdon’s games, and he said Senior Day in November was a cherishing moment.
“I still get choked up thinking about Dalton’s Senior Day for Texas Tech a couple months ago,” Coursey said. “He’s had some tough times, and we talked a lot about it. But knowing the Dalton I know, I never had a doubt he was going to finish this dream out. He has a great work ethic and a great attitude I’m just super proud of him and excited to see him play one more time against Mississippi State.”
Rigdon’s stats are by no means flashy. He’s made 61 career catches for 800 yards with five touchdowns. His best season came in 2019 when he racked up over 400 yards receiving in 10 starts.
But stats are far from Rigdon’s story, or the legacy he’ll leave behind. Rigdon leaves behind the ultimate underdog hero, who came from a nowhere town in nowhere Texas, and that’s what he hopes young players scratching their way to play college football see.
“When I think about what I’m leaving behind, I just want people to know I actually did it,” Rigdon said. “I hope kids in the Texas Panhandle come across my story, and take a chance on themselves. I lived one of my dreams growing up, and I just hope kids know anything is possible.”