Two former Tigers pegged as 'unsung heroes' in 2022 NFL season

Two former Tigers pegged as 'unsung heroes' in 2022 NFL season


Two former Tigers pegged as 'unsung heroes' in 2022 NFL season


A couple of former Clemson standouts have been pegged as unsung heroes in the 2022 NFL season. highlighted an overlooked/surprise contributor from each NFC and AFC team, and one former Tiger made the list in each conference.

Tee Higgins is among the AFC honorees as the Cincinnati Bengals’ unsung hero.

In his third year with the Bengals after being drafted by the franchise in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft, Higgins tied his career high in catches (74) and had 1,029 receiving yards in 16 regular season games, going over 1,000 receiving yards for the second straight season. He also had a career-high seven touchdown receptions during the regular season.

“Much is made of Ja’Marr Chase, but if 2022 proved anything about the Bengals’ receiving corps, it’s that Cincy boasts more than just the phenom receiver,”’s Nick Shook wrote. “When Chase missed a stretch of midseason games due to injury, Higgins found himself as the Bengals’ new No. 1 receiver and the focus of additional defensive attention. Instead of wilting, Higgins embraced his new role, breaking 100 receiving yards in consecutive games (Weeks 11 and 12) against a division rival (Pittsburgh) and last season’s top AFC seed (Tennessee). With Chase missing four total games from Week 8 through 12, Higgins caught 26 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns, playing a huge part in the Bengals’ midseason return to true contender status. By the time Chase returned, the Bengals were rolling. Much of that is due to Higgins, an excellent receiver who just happens to play alongside one of the league’s very best.”

As for the NFC, former Clemson safety Jayron Kearse was tabbed as the Dallas Cowboys’ unsung hero.

Drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 7th round (244th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft, Kearse signed with Dallas before the 2021 season and had a breakout first year with the Cowboys before following it up with another strong campaign for “America’s Team” this season.

“Kearse’s career has become a captivating tale of persistence,” Shook wrote. “The Clemson product slid far down the draft board in 2016, landing with Minnesota in Round 7, then fizzled out with both the Vikings and Lions. In 2021, he signed with the Cowboys — and he’s done nothing but play quality football since. Like the Commanders’ Darrick Forrest (see below), Kearse always seems to be in the perfect position to make key plays. He finished with 77 tackles, one interception, five passes defensed, one forced fumble, two recoveries and two sacks in 2022, but his performance has been about more than stats. The average Cowboys fan will agree: Kearse (along with Donovan Wilson) has become an integral part of Dallas’ defense on the back end under the direction of coordinator Dan Quinn.”

Kearse’s Cowboys fell to the San Francisco 49ers, 19-12, in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs last weekend. Higgins and the Bengals advanced to the AFC Championship Game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., CBS) after beating the Buffalo Bills, 27-10, in the divisional round.

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