People in East Tennessee and others across the country will be cheering for former Oak Ridge Wildcat Tee Higgins in the Super Bowl this evening (Sunday, February 13), and another former Wildcat, Zach Witherspoon, will be on the sidelines.
Higgins is a standout wide receiver who played for Oak Ridge and Clemson University, and he is playing in his second season for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals (10-7-0) play the Los Angeles Rams (12-5-0) at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The game will be broadcast on NBC at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Coverage of Super Bowl 2022 will air live on NBC and Peacock starting at 12 p.m. Eastern.
The Bengals advanced to the Super Bowl by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in overtime on January 30, with a game-winning 31-yard field goal by rookie kicker Evan McPherson. You can watch highlights of that game here and here, and read a scoring summary here.
Higgins, drafted by the Bengals in the first pick of the second round in April 2020, caught six passes for a team-leading 103 yards in that AFC Championship game, and he contributed on key plays, including a 44-yard reception in the third quarter. You can watch Higgins’ receptions here and here, and watch his post-game interview here.
Cincinnati has not been to the Super Bowl since 1988. Before this season, they hadn’t won a playoff game since 1990.
To advance to the AFC Championship game this year, the Bengals defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 in the Wild Card round before dramatically upending the AFC No. 1-seeded Tennessee Titans 19-16.
In Oak Ridge, Higgins won Tennessee Titans Mr. Football award two years in a row. He was known for his leaping, athletic catches, even when double-teamed, and he contributed elsewhere, including blocking, special teams, and defense.
Higgins was also a star basketball player in Oak Ridge. He played in the state championship basketball game as a freshman and was a finalist for Mr. Basketball as a junior, and he was known for his powerful dunks and other memorable moments, including a winning three-point shot against rival Fulton in 2015.
After high school, Higgins played at Clemson University for three years and competed in two national championships, with the Tigers winning one in 2018. When he was drafted by the Bengals, Higgins was tied with NFL stars Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins for the all-time touchdown record for a Clemson receiver (27).
Higgins will not be the only former Wildcat in the Super Bowl this year. Zach Witherspoon, who graduated from Oak Ridge in 2010 and played football at Carson-Newman, is an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Rams.
Here is a video featuring Higgins by Oak Ridge Wildcats broadcaster David Clary that plays on the scoreboard at Blankenship Field:
Here is a video from The Players’ Tribune:
Here is a roundup of stories written about Higgins and Witherspoon:
- How Tee Higgins’ Tennessee high school coach convinced him to switch from basketball to football
- Oak Ridge natives compete for Super Bowl LVI | wbir.com
- Higgins’ family discusses his ‘amazing’ journey to Super Bowl, seeing him live dreams | The Clemson Insider
- ‘That would be so awesome’ | Tee Higgins’ family hoping to see him score a touchdown in the Super Bowl | wbir.com
- Camillia Stewart talks about her son playing sports at a young age (wate.com)
- Super Bowl excitement high in Oak Ridge as Tee Higgins prepares for championship (wate.com)
- Super Bowl 56: Tee Higgins, Jalen Ramsey, Van Jefferson in big game (tennessean.com)
- How Zach Witherspoon ended up on LA Rams sideline in the Super Bowl (knoxnews.com)
- Oak Ridge native, Zach Witherspoon, will coach in the Super Bowl | wbir.com
- Former Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins set for Super Bowl | The State
- ‘I think it would mean a lot’ | Tee Higgins ready to represent Oak Ridge in the Super Bowl | wbir.com
- ‘Oak Ridge will be ecstatic’: Tee Higgins’s high school quarterback, Johnny Stewart talks Super Bowl LVI | wbir.com
- Super Bowl 2022: Tee Higgins’ mom fought to watch son play (nypost.com)
- Oak Ridge native Tee Higgins moves on to Super Bowl (wvlt.tv)
- ‘It’s thrilling’ | Tee Higgins’ Oak Ridge coach excited to watch his former player in the Super Bowl | wbir.com
- Momma’s Boy by Tee Higgins | The Players’ Tribune (theplayerstribune.com)
- HISTORY WITH HAYES: Before Super Bowl Sunday, Tee Higgins put on a show at Viking Hall in the Arby’s Classic | Sports News | heraldcourier.com
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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