Dan Jiggetts

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The USFL - The Rebel League

Copyright 2007

Dan Jiggetts took a front office job with Chicago Blitz following the 1982 strike-shortened NFL season. Acting as the director of pro-player procurement, Jiggetts also played on the offensive line for the Blitz in 1983 and 1984.

 

Jiggetts, who graduated from Harvard, wasn’t welcomed back to the Bears after acting as a player-representative during the players’ strike that shortened the season to nine games.

 

“There were several of us that were ‘persona-non-grata’ and found something else to do,” Jiggetts said with a laugh in his hefty voice. “Coming to the Blitz gave me an opportunity to stay in town and help put things together on the management side.”

 

Jiggetts welcomed the opportunity to be part of something new in professional football.

 

The Blitz stormed into the playoffs with a 12-6 record in their inaugural season, but lost to the Philadelphia Stars in the playoffs in a heart-breaking defeat, 44-38 in overtime – despite having leading 38-17 with 12:04 left in the game.

 

After the successful 1983 season, the owners of the Wranglers and Blitz swapped franchises for the 1984 season. This enabled Blitz owner, Dr. Diethrich, to be close to his team in Arizona where he resided.

 

When Marv Levy took the job he was unaware that players were traded along with the coaching staff and some front office people. He thought he was inheriting a playoff team. “After I was at work I realized the entire roster was swapped,” Levy said from his Chicago home.

 

Things got worse for the beleaguered Blitz franchise as new owner Dr. Hoffman decided to pull anchor just before the season started. “It was after we lost a game to the Panthers and I saw Dr. Hoffman and asked him where he was going? He said, ‘I’m done, I’m out-of-here,’” Jiggetts said. “That’s [1] the last time I spoke to him, before he could legally leave the team midway through the season.” 

 

The league took over the team after that as the franchise seeped into a slow and agonizing demise. Images of an empty Soldier Field on a rain-soaked March afternoon, still linger with several Blitz players and coaches. 

 

Having a say with player-personnel, Jiggetts turned to his old friend Vince Evans to join the Blitz in the disastrous ’84 season.

 

“I convinced Vince it was a great opportunity for him," says Jiggetts, who is well-entrenched in the Chicago sports scene as a broadcaster. "Vince played his tail-off for us that year.”

 

The Blitz finished with a 5-13 record, as attendance dropped to under 8,000 a game.

 

In 1999, Jiggetts stood by his old friend, Walter Payton, as the legendary running back announced he was suffering from a rare liver disease.  As Payton spoke in a soft and sobbing voice in front of America’s media, Jiggetts put his hand on his long-time friend, showing support in this time of crisis.

 

“We worked together on our radio show for three years and when we had the press conference to announce he was sick, it was the hardest thing to do,”  Jiggetts said, reflecting fondly of his longtime friend. “Walter was the greatest friend and teammate anyone could have. If you put a description of what a football should be, just go back and analyze the career of Walter Payton. He was the most ferocious competitor, but gentile as a lamb off the field and a great practical joker."

 

 Even in moments of pain, Walter found time for humor recalls Jiggetts.

 “After the press conference, we went to the back of the restaurant to do the one-on-one interviews with the press. I put my hand on his shoulder, and he said I hit him near his liver. I said ‘you don’t even know where your liver is.’ He then proceeded to grab me in a very sensitive area of my body. ”

 

After Walter passed, Jiggetts spoke at his memorial service at Soldier Field.

 

“It was so strange to realize where you were and why you there; in a place where you had so much joy and fun. He left a legacy and that legacy is more than what he accomplished. When I look at his young son, Jared, who scored his first NFL touchdown in 2005; it was great to see that come about.”

 

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