November 05, 2014

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) The only thing more magnetic than Colorado State receiver Rashard Higgins' hands may be his personality.

The sophomore simply enjoys standing out in a crowd, especially around campus. He wears a dyed gold streak through his hair, just so ''all eyes are on me,'' he laughed.

His nickname of ''Hollywood'' - which he tattooed across his back - seems rather appropriate, since Higgins has been a star attraction all season for the Rams, who are 8-1 for the first time since 2000. The speedy wideout leads the nation in yards receiving (1,280) and TDs (13).

Pretty impressive stats, right? Not for Higgins, who's envisioning twice that yardage and double those scores.

He sets lofty standards for himself because he's fueled a little bit by a grudge - he wasn't highly recruited out of high school - and even more by a memory.

Before his father died last January of what Higgins said was kidney failure following years of dialysis, the two had a conversation he took to heart.

His father, a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, wanted to see Higgins one day wear that iconic star on the side of his helmet.

''I can picture that (talk) - in the hospital, being there with him, telling him I love him, us talking about the Cowboys,'' said Higgins, who's dealing with a sore shoulder and is questionable when the Rams host Hawaii on Saturday. ''I recall those memories ...''

He paused, nudging the grass with his shoe.

''My birthday was Oct. 7,'' the 20-year-old continued. ''He always called me on my birthday. It was hard not hearing from him this year.''

So Higgins went out that weekend and honored his father the best way he knew how - with a big game. Higgins caught 10 passes for 194 yards in a win over Nevada. He also had two touchdowns, pointing up to the sky after each one as a salute to his dad.

This weekend at Hughes Stadium, Higgins is poised to break David Anderson's single-season mark for yards receiving (1,293 in 2003).

Sore shoulder willing, of course. Higgins was banged up last weekend in a win at San Jose State when he awkwardly landed while making a catch.

''He actually is a lot farther along than we anticipated,'' coach Jim McElwain said of Higgins, who's on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, the annual honor for the country's top college receiver. ''I wouldn't mark him out because of his competitive nature.''

That's precisely what drew Higgins to the Rams.

Sure, they liked the 6-foot-2 Higgins after he caught 69 passes for 1,136 yards as a senior at Mesquite High School in Texas. But what really awed the coaches were his hops on the basketball court.

They've been using that leaping ability ever since. Like late in a tie game against Utah State on Oct. 18, when quarterback Garrett Grayson threw the ball deep into double coverage.

Of course, Higgins hauled it in for a 46-yard gain, which led to a game-winning field goal.

''Great players make big plays at the right time,'' said Grayson, who became the school's all-time leading passer this season. ''That's why he's the great player that he is.''

Higgins' biggest fan has yet to see him play in person at Colorado State, but hasn't missed a snap. His mom, Jeanette Jackson, watches either on satellite TV or on the internet from her home in Texas.

Her favorite game this season? Easy, Tulsa on Oct. 4, when Higgins had four touchdowns and 178 yards.

Last Saturday was up there too, as he turned in his fifth straight game with at least 100 yards.

''Hard to pick one,'' she chuckled in a phone interview. ''Words can't explain how I feel about the great job he's doing.''

Growing up, Higgins' dad was often sick as he underwent dialysis treatment. His mom's longtime boyfriend, Cleophus Wilson, served as a father figure, often taking him fishing, to school and football practice. He even bought Higgins his first pair of cleats, which the family is trying to locate in order to bronze as a keepsake.

''We've all been right there with him, for him,'' she said. ''Everyone knew he was going to be successful, because he always carried around a football.''

As for his nickname, that was given to him when he was in grade school. He kept making big-time plays, so his coach dubbed him ''Hollywood.''

It stuck. And it's certainly fitting given his charismatic disposition.

''Everybody loves being around me, because I make everybody smile,'' Higgins said. ''There's not one person who wouldn't say `Hollywood' isn't funny. I bring a lot of joy to the team. When I'm around, it brightens up everybody's day.''

You May Like