KNOXVILLE (WATE) – To many Tennessee fans, Oak Ridge’s Tee Higgins and Knoxville Catholic High School’s Amari Rodgers might feel like the big fish that got away.
Two are among some of the nation’s brightest young talents. They both signed with Clemson University, a team coming off a national championship. With that comes a lot of pressure.
“There’s people leaving, we have to fill their spots. They just won a National Championship, we’ve got to come in fill that role, and help them ball out like last year,” said Rodgers.
Both also faced a lot of pressure to go to the University of Tennessee. Higgins is a former Tennessee commit. Rodgers walked way from the University of Southern California and his father, Trojans Offensive Coordinator and Vol Legend Tee Martin.
“We both went through the decommitment process,” said Rodgers. “I grew up a Tennessee fan. It’s just crazy, I had family members pulling me to go for Tennessee, others telling me to get away from here. My sister told me it was my decision and I had to do what was best for me.”
Higgins said his family and coaches have also supported him, but admitted it was great to have someone else sharing in the experience he could lean on.
“We built a relationship here in Tennessee, just becoming closer, knowing I have a brother going with me, it’s great,” said Higgins.
The fanbase and coaching staff were what attracted both players to Clemson. Higgins said he loved that the fanbase loves their team no matter if they have a bad game or a good game.
“Coach Swinney, he’s a player’s coach. That’s who I wanted to play for. He doesn’t just want you for a football player, he wants you to develop you into a man,” said Rodgers. “He’s literally graduated everyone but three players and those three players went to the NFL early.”
They hope they can make their mark and show Tennessee is a football state. In the meantime, the incoming freshman say they’re also learning a bit from each other.
“He just catches everything. Like, I may drop a ball every now and again, but he never drops a ball,” said Rodgers. “I try to be like that.”
On the flipside, Higgins said he has always been impressed that Rodgers can catch a ball with the defense on him.
“He just comes from out of nowhere, breaks a tackle and will score from the 60,” said Higgins. “It’s wild and I just can’t wait to play with him.”
The two hope to carry a bit of East Tennessee into their future. Not only are they playing for the same team, but they are also roommates.
“I know I’m clean and he just throws his stuff around. I’m gonna have to be like ‘dude, pick your stuff up. But I’m looking forward to it,” joked Rodgers.
In the mean time the two are challenging each other with some friendly competition.
“He thinks he can beat me in Madden, but I’m going to have to show him what’s up with it,” said Higgins.