Jump to content

Training Camp 2022 - Thread 1 - News and Obs 7/19 - 7/28


Recommended Posts

Here's my thought - break it up week by week. News and hopefully obs from people who can attend. Rookies report Saturday. First practice is the 27th I believe.

 

I am travelling from Baltimore for back together Saturday dealie and also hope to be there for Friday camp on 29th and can drop in-person obs from those sessions. Maybe other are going to various practices that can add as well. 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The piece:

Quote

 

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – On a hot California day in mid-February, Tee Higgins ran for his life.

With a whole world of people watching, with his parents looking on, the 23-year-old Bengal wide receiver lined up left, sprinted 75 yards and into the record books of Super Bowl history. He had caught Joe Burrow’s perfect pass and beat the best cornerback in football. When he got to the end zone, he rightfully celebrated.

Tamaurice William Higgins, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and usually a quiet guy, danced like he was six.

Because when he was six, there was not a lot of dancing.

But that was far behind him now as he juked and jived in the end zone. As Burrow ran to celebrate with him. As time slowed down.

Tee Higgins had come a long way to be here. From this town in Tennessee. From abject defeat and want.

 

There are a lot of come-from-nothing stories in pro sports, too many really. LeBron James once said he would like to read less of those because that would mean kids wouldn’t have to do so much overcoming in their young lives.

But, as James also said, nothing is given, everything is earned.

Few know that more than Tee Higgins.

Tee Higgins at six: 'I want to see my mom'
Tee remembers his sister coming to his kindergarten class. It was Oct. 18, 2005. This was not normal. 

When he got in the car, his sister, Keke, told him this was bad: Their mom had been shot twice. In the head.

They rolled up to the tan house he had always known, a place so familiar before this moment. Now, wrapped in yellow crime tape, with ambulances and police and firetrucks all up and down the block.

 

“We pulled up and I said, ‘I want to see my mom,’ ” Tee remembered while walking in front of the house where the shooting happened. He knew she'd been shot which made him think the worst.

“They wouldn’t let me see her and they flew her off in a helicopter. It was crazy.”

Tee knew little. Now, he matter-of-factly speaks of the shooting, having learned that it was her drug dealer boyfriend who had fired the gun.

Camilla Stewart, who everyone knew as Lady, began using crack when she graduated high school and spent her 21st birthday in jail. She spent the next two-and-a-half years in jail after being arrested for possession of drugs. It became a habit she couldn’t kick no matter how hard she tried.

Gunned down in her home, she was still alive when she had been airlifted to Knoxville, but things did not look good for Lady.

Tee and Keke waited. Tee moved in with Stewart’s sister, Denise Davis, the obvious choice of stand-in parent once everyone knew that Lady had been shot. Tee's father was not really around. And Denise had a young son. He maybe could help Tee through this.

Sitting in the living room Tee knew as a child, Denise says Tee was, as he is today, quiet and easy to deal with.

“The only thing Tee wanted to do was go play somewhere, come back, eat and lay down,” Denise said.

 

Meanwhile, Lady held on at the hospital. She seemed to be rallying. A month passed.

Tee went back to kindergarten.

 

Tee is, as his aunt said, his own guy. Always was.

He plays like his personality dictates. He goes about his business quietly. Do the work, the rest will take care of itself. Those lessons came early. He learned how to entertain himself. He learned how to work hard. He learned that it wasn't how loud you talked but how you performed that mattered.

And he tries, as he always has, not to let things distract him from his goals. In fact, at times, his goals have saved him.

When he was little, when his mom wasn't around, when he wasn’t at school or at Denise’s house, he was at Oak Ridge's Scarboro Community Center where he would play basketball and hang out with other kids his age. The basketball court was his escape.

From a young age, Tee’s athleticism was on display. Barbara Spratling, the manager of recreation at the Scarboro Center, knew early on Tee had the potential to be different.

“Tee’s real reserved, real quiet and very humble as a kid,” Spratling said. “He just kept to himself but he was a great athlete.”

 

Asked if he could have found trouble if he'd wanted to growing up, he agrees. The drugs. The violence. The dangerous shenanigans. It would not have been hard.

But he wanted something more.

“I knew what I wanted to do with my life so I had to stay away with those types of things.”

Bengals wide receivers coach Troy Walters spends more time with Tee than anyone else during the NFL season. If there’s anyone who can attest to Tee’s personality, it’s Walters.

“He’s quiet, doesn’t talk a whole lot but is confident,” Walters said. “He is humble. I still kind of consider him a kid. He’s got a kid-like attitude and nature. He’s still young and still growing. He’s getting better each year and that’s what you ask for."

You can thank his mother for that.

 

More than six weeks after Lady Stewart was shot, after 160 screws and a metal plate were placed in her head, after what doctors called a miracle, she came home to Oak Ridge.

But she wasn't finished using.

While Tee was being taken care of by Denise and beginning his journey with youth sports, Lady was in and out of jail. But on August 19, 2007, Lady checked herself into a halfway house at the Serenity shelter in Knoxville and has been sober since.

 

Tee would make visits to the shelter on the weekends to see his mom. Lady was open with Tee about what she was going through and why she was trying to get better.

“What I experienced in my life, you don’t have to go through it,” Lady said of what she would tell Tee. “I did it for you. You saw the end results and where it could lead you.”

It wasn't just the hard lessons he recalls.

Tee remembers, smiling at the thought, when he and Lady would eat dry Ramen Noodles together.

“One of my best memories at the halfway house for some reason,” Tee said. “It was really good at the time. I probably wouldn’t like it now but at the time it was good.”

 

After years of trying to get clean, Lady said she simply got “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” She would look at KeKe and Tee and realize they deserved more.

With the help of the halfway house, her own will and the support from her family, Lady overcame her addiction.

“For me, it was either death or jail going in and out. I got to the point where I didn’t care about either.

"Then just one day I was like my babies deserve so much more and I’m going to get myself together so they can have that. So they won’t be ashamed of their mother. I made mistakes but I’m going dust myself off and, with the help of God, that’s what I did."

 

Tee knows this. 

 

“My biggest source of motivation is my mom,” he said. “I just want to make the rest of her life easy.”

Football would help.

Tee Higgins: The Oak Ridge legend
When Tee was just becoming a teenager, he began living with his mother again. And, not uncoincidentally, his sports career started to take off. They were exactly what each other needed at the time. Tee needed motivation and direction and Lady needed support and purpose.

Together, they became a duo on a mission to achieve all the potential that was in store for the both of them.

Tee’s physical skillset and athleticism allowed him to do things most kids his age couldn’t. He was 6-foot-3 in the eighth grade. But that didn’t mean it came easy for him.

 

If Tee hadn't decided to pursue a career in football, he could have played Division I basketball with all the attention he received from college scouts. He was talented enough and had scholarship offers.

As a freshman in high school, Tee made the varsity squad and even played in the state championship game that year. To this day, he’s the best basketball player to come through Oak Ridge High School, according to Marcus Bray, the men’s varsity basketball coach there. Bray can still recall Tee's “SportsCenter” dunks and his clutch game-winning shots.

“Without question … he played wherever he wanted,” Bray said. “He was just really skilled. He could have played high-level basketball if he wanted to. Not many kids get the option to play high-level basketball and high-level football and he was one of the guys who could do that.”

 

Lady didn’t miss any of Tee’s games and her presence was felt by all who attended the games. Despite seeking success early on, Bray said Tee never got cocky and stayed humble.

Again, thank his mother for that.

“She kept him on a tight rope… (she) didn’t put up with no nonsense,” Bray said.

Tee started to focus on his football career more when former Oak Ridge football coach Joe Gaddis convinced him his size could make him an exceptional football player.

 

Gaddis’ predictions proved to be true as Tee went on to be a two-time Tennessee Class 5A Mr. Football winner before earning several DI offers as a five-star recruit. As a senior, he caught 68 passes for 1,044 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also served as his team’s punt returner and scored three touchdowns while returning punts.

Tee was rated the No. 15 prospect in the nation by Rivals.com following his senior year.

 

With the University of Tennessee right up the road, it seemed like a no-brainer Tee would become a Vol. But after a visit to the University of Clemson, Tee changed his mind. He retracted his commitment to Tennessee and chose to become a Clemson Tiger.

He said it was because he felt like family there.

 

Tee went on to have a prolific career at Clemson where he caught 35 career receptions for 2,448 yards with 27 receiving touchdowns in 30 starts. His 27 career receiving touchdowns tied for the most in school history with current NFL stars DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.

Then, it was time to see if he could make it to the next level.

Tee Higgins becomes a Bengal
The Bengals had the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and outside of quarterback, their biggest positional need was at wide receiver, one who could eventually replace longtime wide receiver A.J. Green.

 

The Bengals knew they were selecting Joe Burrow with the first pick in the draft early on so the focus turned to who they would select in the second round to start Day 2 of the NFL draft. When head coach Zac Taylor and director of personnel Duke Tobin set their draft boards, they never thought Tee would fall out of the first round.

As the first night of the draft started to wind down, Taylor and Tobin realized they might have a shot at drafting Tee. The Bengals viewed being able to draft him as essentially having two first-round picks.

Tee doesn’t know why he fell out of the first round and he doesn’t care. He’s sure he is exactly where he’s supposed to be.

With his first rookie NFL paycheck – which was more money than he had ever seen in his life – there was no question in his mind what he would do with that money. The first thing he bought was a house for his mom.

 

He is clearly happy at that house to be now with his mom and his dad, Eric, who is back in their lives after serving a 12-year stint in prison on drug charges. 

In prison, it was well known that when Clemson played, that was Eric's time in front of the TV. In fact, until Tee donned a Bengal jersey, Eric had never seen his son play competitively in person. That changed on Sept. 13, 2020, against the Los Angeles Chargers in Paul Brown Stadium.

“It was unbelievable … it was overwhelming,” Eric said of the moment. “It was something that I always wanted to see but didn’t know if I would see it on that level. I was so proud.”

Now, his parents drive from Oak Ridge to watch Tee play. It's one of the reasons Tee is glad the Bengals picked him. Proximity to home.

 

Lady and Eric proudly “soak up” all the moments together.

And that includes the Super Bowl, where Tee did what he always has done: The job at hand.

Tee Higgins, now: 'I feel like there is definitely a higher level that I can reach'
Although Tee is entering his third season in the NFL, in many ways he’s just getting started.

When Tee was drafted by the Bengals, it was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the NFL canceled all offseason workouts. Tee essentially learned the playbook and all of the intricate details of the Bengals’ offense through Zoom.

 

When he reported for training camp, he didn’t have the luxury of banked reps with his new quarterback like every other rookie wide receiver gets in a normal year.

So it was a bit of a slow start. He was also dealing with an injury during his rookie training camp that impacted his play and he dealt with lower body injuries throughout the season.

 

Despite the injuries, Tee played in all 16 games that season and led the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. His 67 catches ranked third among NFL rookies in 2020 and the optimism around Tee and what he could become for the Bengals was high.

Tee returned for the 2021 season in great shape.

Primed for a breakout season in his second year, Tee quietly suffered a shoulder injury in Week 2 when Cincinnati traveled to Chicago. A defensive lineman for the Bears fell on Tee’s shoulder and he came out for the ensuing play. Not one to back down from pain, Tee played through the game with the shoulder, even scoring a touchdown against the Bears.

The shoulder injury never went away but missing games and practice wasn’t an option in his eyes. He played the entire season through it and recorded career bests in several statistical categories. Tee started 14 games and caught 74 passes for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns in 2021.

One of the main reasons the optimism remains so high around Tee is his age. He’ll enter his most important season to date at just 23 years old.

Barring any major setbacks, Tee has the potential to cash in on three NFL contracts by the time he’s 30.

The Bengals and Tee will likely engage in contract negotiations next offseason ahead of the fourth and final year on his rookie deal in 2023.

 

Tee is more than aware of what’s in front of him and is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.

“I feel like there is definitely a higher level that I can reach,” Tee said. “And I’m looking forward to reaching that level.”

Following the Super Bowl loss to the Rams, Tee underwent shoulder surgery to fix his labrum and was unable to participate in the Bengals’ offseason workout program. He spent the entire offseason rehabbing with Cincinnati’s training staff and is on track to be ready to go when the Bengals start training camp on July 27.

On the weekend we spent together in Oak Ridge in June, he told me he was writing down his goals for the year. He was pretty tight-lipped about the specifics. But they probably include getting another 1,000-yard season which could help the Bengals get another chance at a Super Bowl ring.

"Stay tuned," he said.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, membengal said:

This piece on Tee is excellent:

 

 

 

 

"As a young boy, Tee often wanted to read articles about his favorite football players.  However, print media journalism had been very slow to adapt to changing technologies and were quickly left behind. In an attempt to remain relevant and continue making money, they started placing all their articles behind subscriptions paywalls. The Higgins family were not wealthy people, raising prize emus in a [PLEASE PAY $2 TO CONTINUE READING]

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, T-Dub said:

 

 

"As a young boy, Tee often wanted to read articles about his favorite football players.  However, print media journalism had been very slow to adapt to changing technologies and were quickly left behind. In an attempt to remain relevant and continue making money, they started placing all their articles behind subscriptions paywalls. The Higgins family were not wealthy people, raising prize emus in a [PLEASE PAY $2 TO CONTINUE READING]

 

3 hours ago, membengal said:

@T-Dub    Was my pasting the entire article in the next post not enough?

 

 

T-Dub... you owe Mem $2.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just...fuck yes, Joe Burrow.  That's Volson and I think Ben Brown walking out right behind Burrow and the qbs. Looking ready to get to work. Gotta feel great for the rookie linemen to have that guy out there on their day 1...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...