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BYU’s Rigell happy to be back in the fold

SHARE BYU’s Rigell happy to be back in the fold

PROVO — When BYU opened the 1999 season at home on ESPN against Washington, Mike Rigell sat in front of a television and agonized.

"It was hard to watch," Rigell remembered. "I wanted to be out there."

After all, the Tacoma, Wash., native knew both teams well. Not only had he played as a freshman for the Cougars before transferring, he also had a lot of friends on the Husky squad.

BYU won in dramatic fashion, 35-28, that night, and Provo seemed like a long way from where he was at the time — Foothill (Calif.) Junior College.

Now, the speedy receiver/kick returner is in a BYU uniform again and participating in two-a-days, which opened Monday.

"The coaches have made it comfortable for me to come back," said the 5-foot-8, 180-pound junior. "I talked with them a lot while I was gone. I felt, in my heart, this is the best place for me."

Rigell scored five touchdowns for the Cougars in 1998, but after the season, he transferred to Montana, along with quarterback Drew Miller. In the summer, he changed addresses again, departing Missoula, Mont., for Foothill Junior College, where he played last season.

He declines to discuss why he left BYU in the first place. "It's all in the past," he said. "It's over with. I'm ready to play."

At the time of his departure, though, he admitted that it had to do with the fact coaches were planning to reinstate Jaron Dabney as BYU's primary kick returner in 1999. So Rigell joined Miller in Montana.

"I supported him in his decision to leave," said Cougar receiver Margin Hooks. "I saw it coming. I knew ahead of time what was on his mind. He had to do what he felt was best for him." Prior to the '99 season, Rigell realized that the Big Sky Conference was not for him. "It was not the league of football I wanted to play in," he said. "No disrespect to them, but I wanted to play bigger teams."

While Dabney struggled in his return to BYU last season — he ended up leaving school in January — Rigell shined at Foothill Junior College, where he was a 1,000-yard receiver. The Cougar coaching staff took notice and talked to Rigell about the possibility of rejoining the team. In December, he decided to do just that.

"There was no question in our mind we wanted him back," said coach LaVell Edwards. "He's an exciting player and will help us on special teams and with his receiving abilities. He's fit right in."

Rigell is listed as BYU's No. 1 punt and kickoff returner. Two years ago, he led the Cougars with 617 yards in kick return yards, including a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Hawaii. He wasn't bad as a receiver, either, grabbing 18 passes for 331 yards (18.4 yards per catch).

Rigell will be part of a talented receiver rotation that includes Hooks, Jonathan Pittman and Ben Horton. "We'll all do real well. We know Margin's the man, but we're all going to contribute," Rigell said. "We'll make plays."

Hooks is glad to be playing with Rigell again. "We complement each other," he said. "The more receivers you have, the better you're going to be."

E-MAIL: jeffc@desnews.com