Former Oak Ridge wide receiver Tee Higgins is one of a few former Wildcats to win a national championship in a college sport. Higgins, who was a football and basketball star in Oak Ridge, is probably the first former Wildcat with a touchdown catch in a national championship game.
Higgins is a sophomore wide receiver for the Clemson Tigers, who crushed the Alabama Crimson Tide in a 44-16 championship win in Santa Clara, California, on Monday. It was Clemson’s third national championship and second in the past three years, both over Alabama. It was the first national championship for Clemson since Higgins, the team’s leading receiver who has impressed fans with his catches, joined the Tigers.
Higgins had three catches for 81 yards on Monday, including a five-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, the final Clemson touchdown.
Clemson is the first college football team to go 15-0 since Penn in 1897. Trevor Lawrence, the Tigers’ freshman quarterback, was impressive Monday, finishing 20-for-32 for 347 yards and three touchdown passes. He became the since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985.
Two other well-known Oak Ridgers who have won national collegiate championships are Nikki Caldwell and Jennifer Azzi.
Caldwell played for the University of Tennessee Lady Vols team that won the NCAA Championship in 1991. Before that, she had played on the Lady Wildcats team that won the state championship in 1988.
Azzi won an NCAA tournament title at Stanford in 1990 and a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics before playing professionally, including five seasons in the WNBA.
Another former Wildcat, Jacob Vane, was a three-year starter who played on Oak Ridge teams that went 37-6 between 2003-2005, reaching two state semifinals and one state championship game. A fullback at first, Vane switched to linebacker in his senior year. He was a walk-on at the University of Alabama and made the team again after Nick Saban became the head coach, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. He won a BCS National Championship as a fullback with the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2009.
Former Oak Ridge wide receiver and defensive end Darel Middleton, who is expected to enroll at the University of Tennessee this spring, helped lead the East Mississippi Community College to an undefeated season and the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship in November. He had two tackles in the national championship game, helping EMCC defeat Garden City Community College, 10-9. Middleton is a member of the 2019 recruitment class at the University of Tennessee, where he will play on the defensive line.
Also notable from the Monday night Alabama-Clemson game were freshman Tigers receiver Justyn Ross, who caught six passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, and former Knoxville Catholic standout Amari Rodgers, son of former UT Vol Tee Martin. Rodgers caught two passes for 30 yards and had a crucial block at the goal line for Clemson sophomore running back Travis Etienne, who scored three touchdowns.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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