The former five-star gives the Tigers another target for defenses to worry about
After Tee Higgins had his big game against The Citadel on Nov. 18, his old position coach from high school told him, “It’s about time you did something.”
Higgins just laughed telling the story on Wednesday, but the Oak Ridge, Tenn., native knew he had to wait his turn and knew he could not get too frustrated while he did.
Transitioning from the high school game to college was exactly what Higgins expected. The plays and routes are a little more complicated. There is more to learn and everyone else is just as good as he is.
Though he was a former 5-star recruit, Higgins knew none of that mattered once he got to Clemson.
“I was never really too big on the five-star and I never really believed all the hype,” he said. “Any guy from high school to college, you are going to have to come in and work so saying that, you can’t come in thinking like you are the guy. There is already somebody in front of you. So you have to come in and work. I never really thought about it like that.”
Higgins work ethic got him on the field in 12 of the top-ranked Tigers’ 13 games this season. He ranks tied for fifth on the team in catches with 17, one behind his roommate and good friend Amari Rodgers, who has 18.
However, Higgins heads into Clemson’s Sugar Bowl matchup with No. 4 Alabama ranked fourth on the team in receiving yards with 345. His 20.3-yard average leads the squad.
Most of his catches and yards came in the last two regular season games as he hauled in a career-high 6 passes for a career-high 178 yards and career-best two touchdowns in the win over The Citadel. The following week against South Carolina, he caught three passes for 84 yards, including a 24-yard gain on a third-and-10 play that set up the Tigers’ first offensive touchdown.
He caught a 40-yard pass on the next possession to set up another touchdown. Suddenly, as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott described it, the light bulb came on for Higgins.
“You have to be physical with a doubt. If you are not physical, there is nothing you can do,” Higgins said.
The coaches had seen it coming on in practice, and it finally transferred over to the playing field.
“I felt I could contribute early, but I don’t think the coaching staff thought I was ready,” the freshman said. “They gave me a chance in The Citadel game and once I got that first catch, that was all I needed and it has gone on from there.”
Higgins admitted he was kind of frustrated early in the year that he was not making the kind of plays he wanted to make, but he said Scott told him to keep his head up and to keep working and his opportunity would come.
“It did,” Higgins said. “I just kept working in practice and it paid off in The Citadel game.”
It paid off with two circus-like-catches that both went for touchdowns. He caught a jump-ball pass from Zerrick Cooper in the end zone that bounced up in the air, off his hands once and then as he and the defender were going down to the ground he hauled it in with the same hand and rolled over to secure the touchdown.
He then one-handed a pass from Hunter Johnson, kept his balance, tight roped the sideline and sprinted 78 yards down the sideline for his second touchdown.
“A lot of my friends and my family were so glad saying, ‘you had the game you could have.’ Just going out there and playing my game. They said I looked like I was having fun.”