Friday Night Lights went off the air in 2011, but our love for the Dillon Panthers hasn't dimmed. And of course, you can’t talk about Friday Night Lights without talking about fullback Tim Riggins (played by Taylor Kitsch), he of the smoldering glances and unwashed hair and aimless sweetness. Tim was a mess, true—but a well-intentioned, selfless mess who just needed to do a little bit of growing up. As we watched him and Lyla Garrity fall in and out of love, and Tim fall down and realize how to pick himself back up again, we gave our hearts to this bad-boy forever. Here are 19 reasons why the Panther’s #33 is still our #1 TV boyfriend.
Spoilers for all of Friday Night Lights!
He cares deeply for his loved ones
In the first episode of Friday Night Lights, Tim’s best friend, starting quarterback Jason Street, is paralyzed during a game. Tim and Jason’s longtime girlfriend Lyla are both devastated and grieving for Jason, and, in a desperate search for comfort, hook up with each other. Not the classiest or kindest decision, of course—and when Jason learns about their affair, he's understandably devastated.
But Tim eventually wins Jason's friendship back, and sticks by his longtime friend through the turmoil of the next few years, even at one point saving Jason from drowning. It's not surprising given Tim's turbulent home life that he doesn't have healthier coping skills to rely on after Jason's accident. But he quickly gets his shit together, repairs his friendship with Jason, and more than redeems himself.
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He stays positive, despite his difficult home life
Tim has been raised by his brother Billy, who's volatile, occasionally physically abusive, and not above hitting on his little brother’s girlfriends. Tim has been let down countless times by his parents and Billy, but hasn't become bitter. He continues to wear his heart on his sleeve despite his toxic home life, falling in platonic and romantic love despite knowing he may get hurt. Even when he’s virtually homeless and crashing in a trailer, Tim doesn’t lose sight of the possibility of a brighter future. And ultimately, he makes that future happen for himself: the series ends with him at peace and pursuing goals in his life, like owning land in Texas, that will bring him joy and security.
He protects the vulnerable
You might not guess it from all the scrappin’ and fornicatin’ and irresponsible drivin' he does, but Tim Riggins has the potential to be a great Papa Panther one day. When a young boy named Bo moves in next door in season one, Tim takes him under his wing, helping out with odd jobs around the house and even intervening when Bo is bullied. Tim might have designs on Bo’s mom, too, but his bonding moments with little Bo are what make this story arc so great. And throughout the series, he continues to be there as a caregiver for younger people in whom Tim can probably see himself.
He loves hard—but he’s never going to hold his lady back
Tim fell hard for Lyla Garrity. They were the OTP that should have been endgame, and he had the confidence, passion, and optimism to tell her how he felt and to pursue her despite the odds. The show ends with them apart, though, partially because Tim would rather lose her than prevent her from attending Vanderbilt and living up to her potential. As Tim tells Lyla, “I’m not gonna be that guy to stop you from achieving your dreams.” Nothing's more attractive than a man who knows that sometimes a healthy relationship means letting your partner go.
He could protect you from a tornado
Wow! Man makes a tornado look good!
In season two, Tim moves in with the Taylors. While Tim and Julie are out shopping, a cyclone hits Dillon, and Tim winds up sheltering Julie from a tornado in his big brawny beefcake arms. This isn't the first time Tim is protective of Julie—in addition to saving her from a tornado with his studly hugs, he also protects her from a creep who tries to take advantage of her while she's drunk.
In return, Tim faces the anger of Coach Taylor, who misinterprets Tim's intentions towards Julie. As always, Tim followed his heart and did what he knew was best for the people he cared about, regardless of the impact it would have for him. And despite their initial miscommunications, Tim's caring nature isn't something that Coach Taylor forgets.
He encourages his loves to follow their passion, whatever it may be
Whether it’s fundamental Christianity or cheerleading, Tim likes a woman with her own interests. One of the best moments in season one is when Tim encourages Lyla to return to cheerleading because she loves it, saying he’ll support her no matter what happens between them. That's a surprisingly mature statement coming from an emotionally unstable, rarely-sober teen. His encouragement is what propels her to return to her life at school, despite the gendered slut-shaming she receives for cheating on Street.
He leaves his comfort zone for the people he cares about
Tim's heart belongs to Dillon, and Texas, forever. But he will happily travel the world for the people he cares about, visiting New York in season three to help Street mend his relationship with an ex and their daughter. Ultimately, of course, Texas calls him home: but when those he loves need him, he'll be wherever they are.
He doesn't have regrets
Tim believes in living life with no regrets. Few episodes of the series exemplify that attitude more than season three's "Underdogs," in which the Panthers lose the State Championship in a close game to their long-time rivals the South Texas Titans. In the final moments of the episode, Tim, who was injured in the game, leaves his cleats on the field and says a private goodbye to his football career.
Although it's a bittersweet moment, it's clear Tim isn't hung up on losing state—he's just grateful to have had the Panthers in his life as long as he did, and more scared than he might admit to leave the microcosm of high school. Fear of leaving behind the comfortable confines of high school is a very relatable thing, and it's attractive to see Tim boldly facing such a universally intimidating rite of passage.
He is a great dress shopping partner
In season four, Tim develops a friendship with his 16-year-old aspiring beauty queen neighbor, Becky. Becky clearly has a crush on Tim, but he recognizes that what she really needs is just a friend who'll stand by her when her family won't. He takes on an older brother role for Becky, even going dress shopping with her after Becky's mom stands her up. A lesser young man would have taken advantage of a vulnerable girl like Becky, but Tim recognizes his own loneliness in her, and takes a protective role in her life.
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He wants future generations to have a better life than he does—and for that, he’s not afraid to sacrifice
In season five, Tim takes a massive hit in order to spare his brother. He shoulders the entirety of the blame for a chop shop scheme Billy started running out of their auto body shop Riggins' Rigs. Tim takes the fall for both of them, allowing a protesting Billy to stay out of jail, and close to his new family. Tim tells his brother "I did it all. You did nothing," without a thought for his own future. Because he grew up without a father, Tim will do anything in his power to make sure his nephew doesn’t have to do the same.
He has excellent taste in real estate
If you’re going to stay in Texas forever, you better do it on a beautiful plot of land like the one where Tim eventually builds his home. By all rights that home should have been for him and Lyla Garrity, but it's a beautiful home built by a beautiful man nonetheless.
He's great with dogs
He knows a lot about the indie music scene in Dillon, Texas
Never forget that Tim actually attended shows played by Crucifictorious, Dillon's premiere Christian speed metal band. Good taste in music, and he's supportive of even his least socially acceptable friends? Say goodnight.
He'd be a cheap date
Tim is proof that clear eyes and full hearts can't lose
The emotional mantra of Friday Night Lights is Coach Taylor's promise that "clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." In other words, if you leave everything on the field—both literally as an athlete, and metaphorically, as a young man—your life will be richer for it, regardless of what the scoreboard ultimately says.
Riggins has always had the odds stacked against him. He's from a poor background, his parents aren't in the picture, his caregiver is volatile and abusive, and he has a problematic relationship to alcohol. But he faces what he's been given with the full heart Coach Taylor preaches, and ultimately creates a life for himself that, while imperfect, he can be proud of. Can't lose!
Featured still from "Friday Night Lights" via NBC