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Catch-anything style of Bengals’ Tee Higgins rooted in hoops background

Catch-anything style of Bengals’ Tee Higgins rooted in hoops background

He walked into the gym for an exhibition game before the start of Oak Ridge’s senior season in 2016. After three years of playing varsity for the Tennessee high school, he didn’t intend to play his final year. The wide receiver’s future was already sealed as a Clemson recruit. He watched from the bleachers.

Those years playing basketball became useful, as some of those crossover traits helped Higgins excel at Clemson. And after spending less than three full years in college, where he became one of the game’s most dynamic receivers, he’s not that far removed from his hooping days as a second-round pick of the Bengals. His time on the hardwood also means his ceiling could be higher than what he displays during his first season in the NFL.cheap nfl jerseys china

“He has another gear ahead of him, athletically,” said Jeff Scott, who recruited Higgins for Clemson’s 2017 class and coached Tigers receivers until he took over as South Florida’s head coach in December. “That’s a really good thing.”

Scott compared the 6-foot-4, 216-pound Higgins to Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins, another former Clemson standout whose frame lacked muscle mass when he entered the league because of his extended basketball career. Hopkins has been a first-team All-Pro selection the past three seasons.4

Hopkins, like Higgins, was an excellent basketball player. Scott recruited them and Chargers receiver Mike Williams, another former Clemson receiver who played hoops. And Scott believes Higgins topped both.

Higgins, the No. 2 wide receiver according to the ESPN 300 rankings, was a prized prospect for the Tigers, one of college football’s top programs. However, Scott said the Clemson staff was nervous that Higgins might get an offer to sway him to play basketball in college.nfl jerseys wholesale

Higgins said he came “really close” to picking basketball over football. He wouldn’t have been the first one in his family to play college hoops. His older sister, KeKe Stewart, played four seasons at Middle Tennessee and helped the Lady Raiders win the Conference USA title as a senior in 2014.

“I really wanted to work on my game in basketball, but it ended up junior year [of high school] that I knew football was my sport,” Higgins said in April after the Bengals drafted him.

Oak Ridge football coach Joe Gaddis told Higgins early in his high school career that his size made him more unique in football and could help carry him to the NFL. Gaddis said Higgins responded with a laugh.

Those who lined up against Higgins rarely grinned. Gaddis said when Higgins lined up at cornerback, he intercepted enough passes that quarterbacks stopped throwing to his side of the field. When Higgins was a punt returner, Gaddis said, teams started kicking the ball several yards out of bounds to keep him from touching it. Higgins still returned three punts for touchdowns as a senior.

When Higgins was a wide receiver, the instructions to the quarterback were simple: just throw it anywhere in Higgins’ vicinity. And his ability to make mind-boggling catches wasn’t limited to games.

“His acrobatic catches at practice were just unbelievable,” Gaddis said. “I would just look and shake my head and think, ‘Man, did he really just do that?’ He’ll do it in Cincinnati.”