Tee Higgins had to wait longer than he expected, but it paid off in the end. The Clemson star was expected to be a first-round pick, but wasn't chosen on Thursday night.
The wait didn't last long on Friday, as the Bengals picked the 6-4, 215-pound junior with the first pick of the second-round (33rd overall).
"Just getting a call from my favorite team in the NFL is surreal. Being able to call myself a Cincinnati Bengal is crazy," Higgins said with a smile.
The 21 year old became a Bengals fan after Cincinnati drafted his favorite player in 2011.
"Ever since A.J. Green got there. I've been a fan since he was at Georgia, when he got there I switched over to a Bengals fan," Higgins said. "He's a big guy working against smaller DBs, and just me being a big guy, I always wanted to see what he'd do and try to go do it on the field the next day in practice. Just watching him growing up, it's crazy."
Higgins was the top player on the Bengals' board entering day two. They loved his physicality, his toughness and ability to make difficult catches in traffic.
"We know he can come in and help us and make some big plays," head coach Zac Taylor said. "Excellent hands. Great catch radius. If the ball in the air, it's his. He's got that mentality where if he catches the ball in that short to intermediate stuff, he doesn't think he's going down, he thinks he's going to go score."
The Bengals were open to addressing multiple positions in the second-round, but adding Higgins, a player they had a first-round grade on was too tempting to pass up.
"We feel really good about Tee's production, how he's going to fit for us, the mentality he's going to bring to the receiver room and our organization as a whole," Taylor said. "If the ball is in his area, he's coming down with it."
The Bengals are pairing Higgins with quarterback Joe Burrow, who led LSU past Clemson in the National Championship Game.
"We were up on them at the beginning. You could tell he was locked in and he brought his team back. He’s a guy that’s going to compete and play hard no matter what," Higgins said of Burrow. "Being able to play with Joe, he's a guy with great character, he tore it up on the college field and I know he's going to tear it up in the league. So I'm really looking forward to building that chemistry with him and going out there and tearing up defenses."
Higgins has been one of the most productive wide receivers over the past two seasons. He finished his college career with 27 touchdowns in 37 games and averaged 18.1 yards-per-catch.
His on-field brought him to Cincinnati. The same place that Green called home for the past nine years. Higgins may not realize it now, but he could be replacing his idol.
“I gotta be cool. I gotta be cool. I gotta be cool," Higgins said with a smile when asked about meeting Green for the first time. “He’s my teammate now.”