Bengals Rookie Tee Higgins Modeled His Game After A.J. Green, Then Became His Teammate

Everything has been so far, so good for Tee Higgins and the Cincinnati Bengals.

A rookie receiver from Clemson, Higgins has more than lived up to expectations as a rookie. Both before and since fellow rookie quarterback Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury, Higgins has put together an excellent first campaign in the NFL. 

In a way, a young Higgins predicted that he would wind up thriving for the Bengals. Higgins modeled his game after Bengals icon A.J. Green, who has spent the last few months lining up alongside Higgins in Cincinnati’s offense.

Tee Higgins is the Bengals’ star rookie wideout

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When Tee Higgins fell to the 2020 NFL draft’s second round, the Cincinnati Bengals wisely pounced on the Clemson star.

Higgins hasn’t needed long to adjust to the NFL, hauling in 58 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns in his first 13 games. Across a full 16-game schedule, Higgins is on pace to end the 2020 season with 72 catches, 957 yards, and six touchdowns.

Higgins and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick, worked well together before the latter’s injury.

That’s not to say Higgins has had a perfect season. Pro-Football-Reference credited Higgins with seven drops on 92 targets, which ranks near the top of the league.

The Cincinnati Bengals appear to have a star on their hands in Higgins, which is excellent news as a new era of Bengals football approaches.

Higgins modeled his game after Bengals legend A.J. Green

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From a certain point of view, Tee Higgins called his shot.

Higgins grew up a Bengals fan, specifically that of longtime Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green. A first-round pick in 2011, Green has made seven Pro Bowls and earned second-team All-Pro honors in three seasons.

In the spring of 2016, Higgins — then a high school junior in Oak Ridge, Tenn., predicted that he would meet Green one day. Little did Higgins know that he and Green would meet only four years later, but as teammates.

In a conference call with reporters during the 2020 NFL draft, Higgins revealed just how much Green meant to his development.

The Bengals’ official website transcribed Higgins’ comments.

“I actually model my game after him. Just his grit. His jump ball and body control is unbelievable … Man, it’s crazy. I was just talking about this to my good friend. ‘I can wind up with the Bengals and be his teammate.’ Now that this moment is here, it’s surreal.”

Green, 32, had 41 catches for 419 yards and two touchdowns in his first 13 games this year. He can hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason.

Tee Higgins has emerged as A.J. Green’s long-term replacement

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The Cincinnati Bengals have invested their long-term hopes into the duo of Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins.

Burrow had an excellent rookie year before suffering a knee injury in Week 12. He is expected to make a full recovery and return to play early next season.

Although Burrow is on the bench, Higgins is still thriving and showing why he has a bright future ahead of him. Higgins hauled in 15 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown in his first three starts after Burrow went down.

Ironically, Higgins — who spent years idolizing A.J. Green — could be his long-term replacement. Green will play next season at 33 years old, and it is not yet known if the Bengals intend to re-sign him.

Higgins will play the 2021 campaign at only 22 years old and with three years left on his rookie campaign.

All stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.