NOTRE DAME — The stage and costume will be new for Cody Riggs, but the performance will not.
The Irish cornerback, who transferred from Florida in June, takes the field for the first time at Notre Dame Stadium in the opener against Rice on Saturday, Aug. 30.
While swapping the blue and orange for the blue and gold will be different, the game will not be. Riggs started 26 times for Florida and will carry his experience over to a Notre Dame secondary seriously lacking in that area.
Riggs fell in stride with the team immediately. Head coach Brian Kelly called him a “Notre Dame man” at the opening of fall camp, just over a month after Riggs arrived on campus.
“When I came here, guys went out of their way to make sure I felt comfortable, coming up to me, introducing themselves,” Riggs said. “I was nervous that I wasn’t going to learn everybody’s names, but I learned them so fast since everyone kept coming up to me and talking to me.”
Younger cornerbacks — like sophomores Cole Luke and Devin Butler — flocked to him immediately, seeking his counsel and asking for his input.
“When I got here, I took a lot of guys under my wing, stayed after, did a lot of extra work with them just to let them know that I’m here and I’m going to work just as hard even though I’m the older guy — been there, done that,” Riggs said. “I came here and just wanted to work and they all respected me, and I respected them.”
That leaves Riggs the lone cornerback on the two-deep with a collegiate start to his name.
In terms of demeanor, Riggs is a complete foil of Russell. Both exude confidence, but where Russell is loquacious and energetic, Riggs carries an even-keeled self-assurance of a college football veteran.
After three seasons and 40 games at Florida, Riggs turned his sights to a different school to pursue his graduate degree. He mailed his papers out to several prospects, and Notre Dame was the first to respond.
It helped that Riggs already had connections to the university. His uncle, Bobby Brown, was a wide receiver at Notre Dame from 1996-99. He remembers visiting Brown during that time and watching games in Notre Dame Stadium.
“I remember coming to games back in 1997,” Riggs said. “I’ve always been a fan of Notre Dame, always been a part of that. The tradition of Notre Dame is very strong in my family.”
Notre Dame recruited him out of high school back in 2010, but the way the chips fell, Florida made the most sense at the time.
“Joe Haden had just left to the NFL. They had a void at corner, (Florida) was close to home, I’ve never been far from home,” Riggs said. “I had a really good relationship with (then-head coach) Urban Meyer. He was Bobby’s receiver coach here at Notre Dame, so Urban was already tied into my family. It was the perfect for me at the time.”
Now Riggs faces a different type of schedule in a different atmosphere. SEC opponents and a student body of 50,000 have been replaced by USC, Michigan, Stanford and a campus of 12,000. Though he said he misses the bigger campus, he maintains Notre Dame was “the best fit” for him.
With Russell currently out and a cornerback unit in dire need of a veteran, Notre Dame likely feels the same way.
“I think the final piece is what a great kid he is,” Kelly said. “Hard worker, great with the players, professional, goes to class, works hard, comes to practice and is ready to go every day. He's just been one of those great kids that you find once in a while that's worked out so well for us.”