Bengals’ Tee Higgins attracts energy from mother’s perseverance — •

The beginning of Tee Higgins’ soccer profession sputtered so typically that he’d discover a spot within the stands subsequent to his mom when he ought to have been on the sector.

Higgins tried to stop pee wee soccer so many instances that his mom and aunt needed to develop extra convincing measures.

“He didn’t prefer to get hit, so me and my sister would inform him to run,” stated Higgins’ mom, Camillia Stewart. “One recreation specifically, he received hit and got here within the stands with us. His coach was wanting round for him. He liked Scorching Wheels, so my sister stated if he received again on the market, she’d purchase him one. She bribed him. He went again on the market and the remaining is historical past.”

Higgins and his Cincinnati Bengals have definitely come a good distance.

The second-year wideout emerged as a breakout participant for a dynamic Bengals offense whereas the workforce gained its first division title since 2015. On Saturday, the Bengals will host the Las Vegas Raiders within the AFC wild-card spherical with an opportunity to win their first playoff recreation because the 1990 season. Higgins, who grew up a Bengals fan due to his favourite participant, A.J. Inexperienced, is all too accustomed to his workforce’s drought.

“After final season, we knew what we may do,” stated Higgins, who caught 74 passes for 1,091 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. “Our connection grew throughout coaching camp. To date, it’s been a hell of a experience. We simply received to maintain it going and benefit from the course of each week.”

However for Higgins and his mom, the journey goes past the chance to play for his favourite workforce. Higgins understands the non-public journey his mom has been via.

“No matter situation I’m having, it’ll by no means examine to what my mother went via, by overcoming medication, getting shot and being sober for all of those years,” Higgins stated. “If I ever have an issue, I simply take a look at how she’s overcome and I preserve it shifting.”

Stewart, generally known as “Woman” in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, about 25 miles west of Knoxville, involves tears when requested to explain what Higgins means to the household.

Cincinnati Bengals extensive receiver Tee Higgins (proper) together with his mom, Camillia Stewart (left).

Camillia Stewart

“I didn’t suppose I deserved to have one other little one due to the life I lived,” stated Stewart. “However God blessed me with him. Tee’s seen my life. He’s seen my struggles, however he and his sister have been there for me. Even when my life felt prefer it was coming to an finish, they had been nonetheless there rooting me on.”

Whereas rising up in Oak Ridge, Higgins didn’t know his mom was battling drug dependancy. Throughout these years, in keeping with Higgins, she’d spend time in jail for possession and time out and in of rehab. Her drug binges had a lot management over her that she’d go away Higgins, even earlier than he was of college age, alone in a single day. Higgins’ older sister, Shakia “KeKe” Stewart, stated she herself typically lived with their grandmother or with certainly one of Stewart’s sisters.

When Higgins wakened in the course of the night time and realized he was alone, he’d typically run out barefoot to his grandmother’s home down the road, Shakia Stewart stated.

“I’d let him are available and maintain him,” stated Shakia Stewart, who’s 10 years older than Higgins, who was about 5 or 6 years outdated on the time. “I keep in mind him coming down the road simply crying, asking, ‘Why my mama leaving?’ And I couldn’t actually reply him on the time. I’d simply inform him that she was sick, and we’d put him within the mattress with us [Shakia Stewart and her grandmother].”

“I didn’t suppose I deserved to have one other little one due to the life I lived. However God blessed me with him.”

— Camillia Stewart

It was a prelude to an incident that shook Higgins and his sister. Higgins remembers in kindergarten being known as to the college workplace, the place he discovered his sister crying, telling him between sobs that their mom, who was now not in a relationship with Higgins’ father, had been shot within the head by her then-boyfriend. Shakia Stewart picked her brother up from college and drove him house to a scene he by no means forgot.

“I keep in mind all of those police vehicles and the ambulance and all I needed to do was see my mom, however nobody would let me,” Higgins stated. “I’m crying and my sister’s telling me she’s going to be OK, and we’ll see her later. I didn’t wish to hear any of that as a result of I simply needed to see my mother.”

Camillia Stewart stated she’s forgiven her shooter, however the reminiscence stays painful for Higgins.

“I’ve had hate for him ever since,” Higgins stated. “However she tells me God needs us to forgive … I’m nonetheless engaged on it. It’s going to take me a while, however this says lots about my mom.”

Camillia Stewart survived the capturing however battled her dependancy over the subsequent few years, which frequently meant time in jail and time away from her youngsters and grandchild when her daughter Shakia had a daughter. However 5 months in jail in 2007 adopted by practically a 12 months in a rehab facility helped Camillia Stewart along with her dependancy.

Camillia Stewart stated she has been sober for greater than 14 years and now works as a house well being care supplier.

“I needed to shake them demons unfastened so I may very well be proper for my household,” stated Camillia Stewart, who additionally credit her Christian religion along with her rebirth. “As soon as I received me proper and began loving myself, I may love any individual else. And so they liked me sufficient to grasp that and provides me time to get to that time in my life. They by no means gave up on me.”

Higgins continues to hold his ardour for his mom on and off the sector. 

Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after a recreation in opposition to the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium on Jan. 2.

Andy Lyons/Getty Pictures

“She at all times needed us to remain in class and end school. Clearly, I left school early to go professional. However I’m going again to complete as a result of I made a promise to her,” Higgins stated. “She stays an inspiration due to all of the issues she went via in her life.”

Branson Wright is a filmmaker and freelance multimedia sports activities reporter.

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