Football has always been a vehicle for Clemson's Tee Higgins, a way to help his family and create generational wealth. Wednesday, the wide receiver took an important step in actualizing that vision when he declared for the 2020 NFL Draft.
"Clemson is different," Higgins wrote in a Twitter post. "It's hard to explain – I know it has been said that there's something in these hills, and as someone who grew up on the other side of those hills in Tennessee, I can tell you that it is 100 percent true."
Higgins, a junior, entered Clemson a 5-star recruit, per the 247Sports Composite, and was the No. 2 wide receiver in the country for the class of 2017. Notably, he chose the Tigers over Tennessee, his home state school.
He contributed 17 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman, before kicking things into another gear in 2018. He recorded 59 catches for 936 yards and 12 touchdowns, paving the way for his victory lap of a junior season.
As quarterback Trevor Lawrence's No. 1 option alongside sophomore Justyn Ross and junior Amari Rodgers, Higgins helped make Clemson the most prolific passing team in the ACC this season.
He finished with 59 catches for 1,1167 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he tied the Kansas City Chiefs' Sammy Watkins and the Houston Texans' DeAndre Hopkins for the most touchdown catches in program history (27).
He had three catches for 52 yards and a 36-yard rushing touchdown in the team's 42-25 loss to LSU in the College Football Playoff national championship game Monday.
"I want to thank Coach Swinney for just giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams and pushing me to grow and become a better man," Higgins wrote. "I want to thank Coach Scott & Coach Elliott for making me a better player and always being there for me. I want to thank my teammates — football is the ultimate team sport — ya'll are my boys forever."
Higgins projects as a top-15 pick in the draft, which starts April 23. Clemson now awaits the decisions of running back Travis Etienne and cornerback A.J. Terrell, who are also juniors. Redshirt junior Isaiah Simmons has already said he will be leaving Clemson for the NFL.
Higgins' departure will mean more responsibility next season for Ross and Rodgers, in addition to rising sophomore wide receivers Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson, both of whom were 4-star recruits and contributed sparingly this season. Higgins was a positive influence for both.
"You've made me smile from the womb," Higgins' mother, Camilla Stewart, wrote on Twitter. "You were a blessing then and you're a blessing now."
Stewart is a fixture at Clemson games, and Higgins said he can hear her cheering even in the loudest of atmospheres. Now, she'll get the chance to cheer on her son in professional stadiums.