The Cincinnati Bengals wasted little time finding a new weapon for Joe Burrow, as the front office selected former Clemson wideout Tee Higgins with the No. 33 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Higgins finished his final year at Clemson with 59 receptions for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’ll now go from catching passes from Trevor Lawrence to playing alongside the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Burrow.
While the city of Cincinnati celebrated the team’s selection of Higgins during the second round, the rest of the football world expressed their concern with the way ESPN handled the news. The Worldwide Leader In Sports shared a graphic on Higgins that talked about his mother’s drug addiction.
ESPN quickly apologized for its actions, saying “This graphic lacked proper context.” However, it appears Higgins never needed an apology. In fact, he uses his mother’s story as motivation to be an elite football player.
We sat down with Higgins to discuss how his experience was during the 2020 NFL Draft, how he feels about wearing No. 85 for the Bengals and why the ESPN graphic never bothered him. Let’s get this interview started.
The Spun: How was the draft experience for you since it was virtual this year?
Tee Higgins: It was definitely different from what I’ve heard it’s supposed to be like, but they made it work. The way the NFL handled it was pretty neat to be honest.
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) April 30, 2020
The Spun: What was it like getting that call from the Cincinnati Bengals?
TH: Man, it was the best moment of my life. I’ve been dreaming of that moment for a very long time, and to have it actually happen was a dream come true.
The Spun: What does it mean to you that you’ll be wearing No. 85 in Cincinnati?
TH: It means a lot. Out of respect, I asked Chad Johnson if I’d be allowed to wear that number. He was okay with it. The number means a lot to the city of Cincinnati, so I plan on wearing it with pride and keeping the No. 85 tradition going.
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) April 27, 2020
The Spun: You’re now teammates with Joe Burrow. Do you think transitioning from Trevor to Joe will be quick?
TH: Oh definitely. I think we’ll quickly develop chemistry together. I can’t wait to get out there with him and catch a few balls from him.
The Spun: Clemson is still pretty loaded on offense with Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Justyn Ross. Do you think your former team will win the national title this year?
TH: They have a great chance. Those guys they still on offense are dogs.
The Spun: ESPN received a lot of criticism for a controversial graphic about your mother. You responded to it saying you didn’t mind it. Can you just elaborate on that?
TH: Yeah, I didn’t really care about that graphic. They apologized about it, but I just take it as motivation. I want to make sure my mom is stress-free for the rest of her life, so that’s how I use that as fuel.
I’m proud of my mom for turning her life around for me and my sister! I have no problem with them showing the world that my mom is a true fighter🖤🙏🏾 https://t.co/11xKrf4wlV
— Tee Higgins⁵ (@teehiggins5) April 26, 2020
The Spun: How do you balance staying in shape, while also learning a new playbook?
TH: I’m just working out at home, running routes and keeping my feet hot. I just have to stay on the grind, take time to learn my new playbook and make sure the minute I arrive in Cincinnati I’m ready to make an impact.
The Spun: Who’s the one cornerback in the NFL you can’t wait to face?
TH: It’s going to be fun playing against A.J. Terrell because the last time we faced each other was back at practice. We used to go back-and-forth at it during practice, so it’ll be fun to see him at that next level.
The Spun: How would you feel about playing in an empty stadium this fall?
TH: It is just football at the end of the day, but it would be kind of weird to not have fans at the game. I just have to go out there and play my game. I can’t lie though, it would be super weird not having fans in the stands.
The Spun: The Bengals have seen Chad Johnson and A.J. Green shine at wide receiver. Why will you be the next great wideout for the franchise?
TH: I’m a hard worker and I’m not going to stop until I’m a great wide receiver. That’s just my mindset heading into the NFL.
Tee Higgins: Only WR in his class to produce an elite two-year receiving grade against tight coverage pic.twitter.com/fK2wTb1ix0
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 30, 2020
Higgins uses his long frame to his advantage, which should allow Cincinnati to be more effective in the red zone this season.
The Bengals have a plethora of weapons on offense already, but they’ll need to make room for Higgins. He could find his way into the starting lineup by Week 1 of the regular season, especially if he hits the ground running with Burrow.
In addition to being an athletically-gifted wideout, Higgins is a winner. All he did at Clemson was compete for national championships. That type of pedigree will be welcomed in Cincinnati.