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Cal Football

Higgins Happy With Growth, Looking Forward to Future

December 3, 2021
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Cornerback Kaleb Higgins is just a freshman this season but as an early enrollee, the talented frosh has seen a lot already as his first year in the program draws near to closing.

As a junior, Higgins earned All-Sac-Joaquin Section and team Defensive MVP honors for Folsom High School when he recorded 22 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, one interception that he returned 60 yards for a touchdown, six pass deflections, one forced fumble and one blocked punt in nine games played before graduating early and enrolling at Cal in January 2021.

Higgins saw his first action in a game in the Big Game two weeks ago, squaring off against his brother Elijah, a powerfully-built 6-3/235 receiver with 44 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns on the season for Stanford.

“I feel like I say this a bunch but it literally felt surreal,” said Higgins. “Leading up to the Big Game, I was thinking back to 2019 when we won at Stanford and I was at that game as well so it was kind of like the same feelings but I was on the wrong side on 2019 since I was being recruited by Stanford. Seeing Cal blow up and win that game made me alter my thoughts about Cal. Then being here and winning the Big Game two years later, it’s been a surreal experience, especially going against my brother. Those are things I’ve dreamed about -playing against him and his team and going head-to-head in such a huge rivalry like that.”

Even though the brothers didn’t get a chance to go head to head during his time on the field, it wasn’t for lack of trying to make it happen on either side of the family.

“We tried to scheme and make it happen but we never went against each other,” said Higgins. “I let him know I was on punt return a couple nights before the game and he said, ‘Alright, I'll call you back. I'll try and get my coach to let me on there’ but it didn't work out.”

There wasn’t much time for smack talk heading into the game but the brothers have maintained a friendly rivalry ever since he committed to the Bears last year.

“Leading up to the game, we didn’t talk too much because we were in systematic planning to beat each other but in the months to come, especially the summer, we’ll be talking about how this and this will happen, I’m sure,” said Higgins.

Higgins took it easy on his brother after the Bears’ big 41-11 victory, especially with his older brother’s encouragement.

“After the game, he was kind of disappointed with what his team put up but overall, he was glad for me to be a part of such a big, happy environment like we had after such a big win,” said Higgins. “He was really proud of me and my team. And my family is just cracking jokes. Either way, they won. One of their sons won the game ultimately.”

In the weeks before the Big Game, Higgins was one of the 40+ players and coaches who were quarantined with covid during the recent outbreak, though his symptoms were minor and passed quickly.

“All in all, it was kind of scary,” said Higgins of the impact on the team. “We didn't know who had it, how they got it, how it was spreading and how it was going to affect us as a team going forward. We all just got tested and were sitting in the locker room with masks looking at each other, wondering who was next.

“Sooner or later, I got a call that I got covid so I had to get out of the locker room and was out for 10 days. Once everyone came back, I feel like it really altered the atmosphere on the team. It kind of drove home the point that as hard as we've worked in the last year, it can be taken away, just like that. It changed everyone’s mindset. Coming out if it, you could see everyone was highly-motivated. That week of practice after everyone came back leading up to the Big Game was incredible. It was awesome.”

Overall, Higgins is happy with the growth he’s experienced in his time at Cal so far.

“I feel like I’ve been producing well, especially on the practice field,” said Higgins. “The Big Game was the first time I’ve seen the field and even then, I only saw a few snaps in the game but the transition from when I first came in during the spring and the production I’ve been able to show on the field -I feel I’ve grown exponentially. I feel more comfortable and more aligned with the defensive scheme than I was when I first came in.”

First year defensive backs coach Tre Watson has liked what he's seen in Higgins’ growth since his arrival last spring and sees the seeds of what could become a very productive player for the Bears in years to come. At 6-2/200, Higgins is the prototype size programs look for in cornerbacks to be able to compete with the wide variety of talented taller receivers in the Pac-12.

“Kaleb’s great,” said Watson. “He’s competitive and I think he wants to do everything the right way and finish strong. I think he has a bright future with just his natural, God-given abilities -his length, his athleticism. He’s continuing to learn and grow as a player, day by day. And getting to be out there on the field (in the Big Game) I think was good for his development. He’ll have a really good perspective heading into spring ball next year.

“He graded out well in the Big Game. He did things right. He came up, put his pads on somebody without any hesitation. He made his checks and did things the right way.”

Higgins has enjoyed working with the young new DBs coach and has seen his game grow under Watson’s tutelage.

“I’ve enjoyed every part of it with him,” said Higgins. “I feel like every day, he’s finding the little things I can do to develop my game even more. It’s not just only the scheme part of it but the technical parts, as well, like the way you like up or some of the smallest little details I can do better that will ultimately help me be a better player.”

Overall, Higgins is more than happy with his decision to be a Bear. When we had a chance to catch up with him during spring ball, his recruiting sales pitch to prospective Cal recruits said it all:

“Oh man, you can’t get better than here,” said Higgins with a smile. “We're a dual threat. You’ve got one of the best football programs. You’ve got one of the best academic programs. It's a triple threat. You've got one of the best views just walking to this facility. I mean, every day, I have to stop and look at the view of the bay. Ain’t no beating that! Not at all.”

To hear more from Higgins’ spring ball interview, use the embedded link below.

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Higgins Happy With Growth, Looking Forward to Future

2,172 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 7 mo ago by Chapman_is_Gone
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Jolly good show!


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