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What Is Tim Riggins’s Best Moment?

From “Texas Forever” to repeatedly saving Jason Street’s life, these are the moments that made us fall in love with the strong but sensitive star of ‘Friday Night Lights’

NBC/Ringer illustration

Because Taylor Kitsch has a new show premiering Wednesday night — Waco, a six-part miniseries about David Koresh’s 1993 standoff with the FBI — and because in our (full) hearts, Taylor Kitsch will always be Tim Riggins, we hereby declare January 24 to be Tim Riggins Day. Below, we kick off the celebration with a collection of Tim Riggins’s best moments.

When Tim Riggins Coined the Slogan “Texas Forever”

Kate Knibbs: Tim Riggins had plenty of terrific moments, but for my money, nothing can possibly top his first truly great action: when he looks his best friend, Jason Street, in the eyes and says, “Texas forever, Street.” This short, koan-like cheer summarized both the brilliance of Riggins and the brilliance of Friday Night Lights as a whole — the idea that the ordinary pursuit of high school football excellence could also be, on a spiritual level, a quixotic striving toward a permanent, golden state of being, where all you need for maximum happiness is a campfire and a cold one with your boys.

When Tim Riggins Went to Mexico With Jason Street (and Repeatedly Saved His Life)

Michael Baumann: For most of their relationship, Jason Street is Bert and Riggins is Ernie — except for when Street gets it in his head to go to Mexico for experimental shark entrails injections. Much of what Riggins does in this instance — cutting school to tag along, bringing Lyla with him to remind Street of their love triangle — doesn’t seem responsible, but he senses immediately that Street could die about 50 different ways on this trip, and he has Street’s back.

Would it have been better to talk Street out of going in the first place? No, because when you get so bent up that you think sketchy Frankenshark surgery will grant you the power to walk again, like Street does, nobody’s talking you out of it. Riggins knows that he needs to play along, to a point, in order for his best friend to get closure. In this moment, we see Riggins’s best qualities: bravery, loyalty, and profound emotional intelligence.

When Tim Riggins Ordered Squab

Alison Herman: Has any scene in modern TV history captured class anxiety as acutely as the one where Lyla takes Riggins to the country club? The setting instantly activates a more vulnerable, palpably insecure side of a character we’re used to seeing as a self-assured ladies’ man. Of course, the secret sauce of Tim Riggins is that, as easy on the eyes as Taylor Kitsch may be, his vulnerability is what makes him lovable. The more shame he feels, the more Riggins overcompensates, and the more Riggins overcompensates, the deeper a hole he digs in front of his girlfriend’s family. It all culminates in one bony, tiny bird.

Friday Night Lights is the great undersung chronicler, and gentle critic, of aggressive masculinity, and Riggins alternately embodies that value’s peak, its pitfalls, and its comedy. This interlude leans hard on the latter two.

When Tim Riggins Went to Jail for Billy

Ben Lindbergh: In the Season 4 finale of Friday Night Lights, ”Thanksgiving,” Tim Riggins speaks his first word at 23:33, more than halfway through the episode’s 44:39 running time. He spends the first 23:32 stoically making up his mind to take the blame for Billy’s chop-shop operation so that Billy can continue to probably be a bad influence on his infant son, Steven.

This is the 23rd time (approximately) in Friday Night Lights history that Tim has jeopardized his own health, happiness, or safety for someone else, but even by his lofty standards for selflessness, agreeing to do time that Billy deserves to serve goes above and beyond. That sort of self-sacrifice can be honored only by engaging — in the most manly way possible — in a brotherly blubberfest, in which at least one Riggins sibling appears to tear up.

The best thing about Tim turning himself in is the debate it inspired in Season 6 of Parks and Recreation, when we learn that the only issue Leslie and Ann disagree about is whether Tim Riggins is good.

Leslie is wrong about Tim. But Billy is garbage.

When Tim Riggins Bonded With Bo

Kate Halliwell: Sure, Riggins ends up sleeping with the much older single mom who, like us all, is powerless against his dumb charm, exposed biceps, and questionably clean locks — but the only relationship anyone cared about was the one between Tim and teeny, charismatic neighbor Bo, who enlists Tim’s begrudging tutelage in Season 1. I’m sure we all wish that Tim would teach us how to throw a perfect spiral, fend off bullies, and “kick some serious ass.”

GIF of Bo saying, “Tim Riggins is teaching me to kick some serious ass!” NBC

Tim displays this surprising way with kids throughout the series, including a particularly adorable game of airplane with Gracie Taylor. But his brief, delightful relationship with Bo remains my favorite part of his story, and the one I’ve returned to many times over upon various rewatches. In a show full of wonderful contradictions, there’s nothing more enjoyable to me than seeing Tim Riggins go from violently destroying large, armored men on the football field to embracing his tiny friend during the ensuing state championship celebration.

When Tim Riggins Played His Last High School Game

Rodger Sherman: Tim Riggins’s life is soaked in aimlessness and booze. The only two constants are beer and a passion for the state of Texas that he claims will last forever. He’s such an uncertain character, the show even takes a few seasons to figure out how old he is.

Eventually, it is decided that Riggins is a senior in Season 3, which turns out to be the only season in which one of Coach Taylor’s teams loses a playoff game. The Panthers are massive underdogs against South Texas — makes sense, a team hypothetically made up of players from the entire southern half of Texas would probably be really, really good — and lose on a game-ending field goal. After the game, Riggins returns to the empty stadium, places his cleats on the field, and walks away. (Who knew Riggins loved Olympic wrestling?) It’s a beautiful shot — the ninth-largest stadium in the world, empty except for the glow of the scoreboards, a pair of shoes, and a melancholy football player.

GIF of Tim Riggins leaving his cleats on the field NBC

Riggins sure as hell doesn’t know what’s ahead of him in that moment, but he does know that Dillon football, the defining force in his life thus far, is behind him.

When Coach Taylor Thought Tim Riggins Was Taking Advantage of Julie, but He Was Protecting Her

Shea Serrano: The best Tim Riggins moment has to the most Tim Riggins–y moment, and so that’s why it can be only one thing: In the 10th episode of Season 2, Tim ends up moving in with Coach Taylor and his family. (He does so because his older brother, Billy, started dating his ex-girlfriend, which of course hurt his feelings a great deal.) While there, he attends a party with Julie, Coach Taylor’s daughter. She gets drunk and is being hit on and kissed on by a guy, and so Tim — because he is always secretly considerate and wonderful — interrupts the exchange, pulls the guy aside, and then, in that perfectly Tim Riggins way, threatens to kill the guy if he ever even looks at Julie again. He carries Julie home, sneaking her into the house so she doesn’t get in trouble. As he’s setting her down on the bed, Coach Taylor walks in. Taylor assumes that Tim, a bit of a horn dog, is attempting to bed Julie. He goes bonkers, yelling at Tim for what he thinks is a massive betrayal of trust. Riggins tries for half a second to calm Taylor down, but Taylor is too far gone, and so Riggins just stands there, absorbing the fury and the disappointment because he knows if it doesn’t fall on him then it’ll fall on Julie. Coach Taylor throws Riggins out of his house, and that’s that.

It’s a heartbreaking scene, really, and also the best one featuring Tim Riggins because over that three-minute stretch we get to see all of the things that make Tim Riggins such a special TV character: his endless charm; his smoky allure; his unquestionable loyalty; and his snakebitten existence, because every time he tries to do a good thing for someone else, it ends up being a bad thing for himself. Tim Riggins had a nearly endless number of wonderful moments on Friday Night Lights, but none gathered together all of his everything like this one did.