Gene Sapakoff is a columnist and College Sports Editor at The Post and Courier with focus mostly on Clemson, South Carolina, SEC and ACC athletics. But also golf, the Charleston RiverDogs, Atlanta Braves, Carolina Panthers. And road food.

Kelsey Riggs with Manny Diaz

Kelsey Riggs, former Charleston Southern and James Island Charter High School soccer player, interviews Miami football coach Manny Diaz as part of her ACC Network duties. Provided/ACC Network

Kelsey Riggs was completing a workout in the University of Miami’s football weight room last month when fellow ACC Network broadcast crew member Mark Herzlich approached.

“Hey,” he asked, “you want to try something really hard?”

Herzlich was an All-American linebacker at Boston College. He helped the New York Giants win a Super Bowl.

Riggs didn’t skip a beat.

“Of course I do,” the former James Island Charter High School and Charleston Southern soccer player said.

And with that Riggs and Herzlich proceeded to do battle on the Jacob’s Ladder machine, a rugged treadmill climb for only the ambitious. Soon, the pair was gasping for air. But smiling.

“Team bonding,” Riggs said.

Such competitive spirit got Riggs, 30, to a major-market TV job covering the Carolina Panthers and other Charlotte sports. It’s still apparent as she settles into a lead role with the new ACC Network, launched in August.

“She has a magnetic personality,” said Jordan Cornette, a former Notre Dame basketball captain who works with Riggs on the All-ACC studio show. “She lights up a room. She is so good-natured. I call her our point guard because she kind of leads the way with that team-building that makes everybody feel like one big group. She just puts out good vibes.”

Kelsey Riggs CSU soccer

Kelsey Riggs (20) of the ACC Network was a soccer player at Charleston Southern. Photo provided 

The new job is a combination of studio host and sideline reporter stints bunched into the same busy week.

“I’ve been impressed with her studio work from Day 1,” Herzlich said. “Kelsey is good at getting all the questions in but she has fun with it, too. And she comes up with great stories as a sideline reporter.”

Riggs took an unusual path to the ESPN-run ACC Network. She got her start in broadcast journalism doing the morning news at James Island’s Harborview Elementary School (her parents Bryan and Pam Riggs would come in to watch).

Dana Miley, a teacher at James Island Charter, encouraged Riggs’ career interest. They started talking about top college journalism programs.

But when Charleston Southern came along with a soccer scholarship offer, Riggs, a veteran travel-league player, couldn’t resist.

“I loved my time at CSU,” she said.

To keep up with “people at big broadcast journalism schools” Riggs scrambled for internships. She worked at two Charleston television stations. Andy Pruitt and Kevin Bilodeau of WCSC were particularly helpful, she said.

Kelsey Riggs

Kelsey Riggs, former James Island Charter High School and Charleston Southern soccer player, does studio shows and sideline work for the ACC Network. Provided/ACC Network

A week in the life

Riggs was at WBTW in Myrtle Beach before moving to Charlotte.

This week, the Carolina girl is adjusting to the weather at her home near the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn.

“I am officially a Northerner,” Riggs said. “I keep joking that it’s not snowing yet, so it’s fine.”

This is so convenient for her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on James Island. Now they can watch Kelsey on TV multiple times per week.

Riggs’ football season schedule goes like this:

  • Monday night: All-ACC studio show with Herzlich and former Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason.
  • Tuesday night: All-ACC with Beason and Cornette.
  • Wednesday: Saturday game-planning with broadcaster crew members Chris Cotter (play-by-play) and Herzlich (analyst).
  • Thursday: Travel to Saturday game location.
  • Friday: Production meetings (and weight room workout).
  • Saturday: ACC Network sideline reporter (this week for the Virginia-Louisville game).
  • Sunday: Travel back to Bristol.

Ice cream contests

Riggs also sometimes hosts the ACC Network’s studio show “The Huddle” on Friday night and Saturday morning, joining with former Clemson offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain, former Florida State and NFL quarterback EJ Manuel and former Georgia and Miami head coach Mark Richt.

“It’s been a whirlwind in the best way possible,” Riggs said. “I came into this opportunity so excited, not just as the next step in my career but to be a part of something like this. To get to help launch a network — not just me, but for everybody — is just so exciting.”

Cornette says two words define Riggs’ professional approach: preparation and perfectionism.

Both come from the high-level soccer experience.

“It helps a ton,” Riggs said. “The things you have to be able to maintain and balance as a college athlete are things that help you throughout your life. Whether it’s time management or priorities or work ethic – all of those things help me, not just in work but daily.”

There is versatility in that competitive spirit, too.

Riggs sometimes challenges Cotter to eating contests.

“She’s pretty good with ice cream,” Herzlich said.

Just a former soccer player playing point guard.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff