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With several records on radar, Higgins only focused on wins
Cameron Higgins wasn’t supposed to be a four-year starter. Wasn’t supposed to be one of the top quarterbacks in Weber State and Big Sky Conference history. Wasn’t supposed to chase quarterback milestones set by Wildcats’ legend Jamie Martin.
Cameron Higgins was supposed to be an understudy. Supposed to sit on the bench behind a hotshot transfer from Alabama – ‘Bama of big-time football and Bear Bryant fame. Supposed to wait his turn while the transfer QB led the Wildcats where they’d never been before.
Three games in to the Jimmy Barnes Era, Barnes got benched. Weber State coach Ron McBride turned over the offense to a redshirt freshman from Hawaii Kai, Hawaii, who had never heard of the Utah school that gave him his only scholarship offer.
“We had a kid here, Jimmy Barnes, that we thought was the Second Coming of Christ,” McBride said. “He turned out to not be what we thought he was. We thought we could bide a little time with Cameron if we had Barnes, but Barnes was a bust. We went with Cameron and from that time on, he was the guy. After that, the other kid never had a shot again.”
With his first completion today against Northern Colorado, Higgins will likely pass the 10,000-yard mark for his career – he is just four yards shy – and more milestones lie ahead.
With four touchdown passes, Higgins will pass Martin in the Weber State record book and with 13, he will be No. 1 all-time in the Big Sky. He needs 2,212 passing yards to overtake Martin in that category and 2,621 for tops in the Big Sky as well.
Northern Colorado coach Scott Downing describes Higgins as the first challenge the Bears need to prepare for while taking on the Wildcats tonight at 6 p.m.
“He’s one of the finest quarterbacks we’ve got in the country in (the Football Championship Subdivision) and possibly in all of Division I football,” Downing said. “This is a guy that’s done it for three years and he’ll continue to do it this year.”
Higgins is on the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, the honor Martin was given as the top Division I-AA player in the country in 1991.
Quarterbacks coming out of FCS schools (Division I-AA during Martin’s WSU career from 1989-1992) aren’t supposed to stick in the NFL, either. Martin was on NFL rosters for all or part of 16 seasons from 1993-2008.
Higgins has never met Martin or seen film of him playing for Weber State, but he knows his legacy through the records he’s chasing.
“He was a great quarterback. They’re always talking about him around here, how great of a guy he was, how great of a quarterback. He’s someone I sort of look up to, you know, ‘If Jamie Martin can make it, then so can I.’ It kind of gives me confidence.”
Wildcats assistant coach Tom Stackaruk keeps in touch with Martin, Higgins said, so he knows Martin is aware of what he’s doing.
“It’s cool to know that older Weber State players still keep in contact and still see how the program is doing, so I just want to make him proud,” Higgins said.
The Big Sky Conference offensive player of the year in his sophomore year (the first Wildcat to win that award since Martin in 1991 and 1992), Higgins didn’t put up the same stats as a junior, but still led Weber State where they had never been before, back-to-back trips to the FCS playoffs.
Senior wide receiver Mike Phillips said Higgins is an example to his teammates.
“Cam is definitely our leader,” Phillips said. “He’s always in the film room. That’s why I think he’s such a great player and put up the numbers he’s put up, because of the hard work he’s put in, in the film room, the weight room and being our leader out there.”
As a senior, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound signal caller again faces lowered expectations from outside the program. Higgins wasn’t named to the preseason all-Big Sky first team at quarterback and the Wildcats were projected by the media and league coaches to finish fourth in the conference.
Inside the Weber State locker room and in Higgins’ mind, there are no lowered expectations. He isn’t worried about each approaching milestone.
“I just want the win, the national championship, the Big Sky championship,” he said. “When you focus on those things rather than the personal things, the personal things will come. You can’t do it the other way.”
McBride said it’s hard to know how a quarterback recruit will handle the mental aspect of the position, but Higgins has excelled there.
“That’s what separates the average ones from the great ones,” McBride said. “That’s the part of his game that’s taken (Higgins) where he is, because mentally, he’s in tune with what he needs to do.”
Phillips says Higgins’ preparation pays dividends on the field.
“When he sees the mismatches, he knows right off the top of his head, right at the line of scrimmage, what to check to, what to call,” Phillips said. “That’s where I think his hard work has paid in at. I really think he could be at the next level, because of his football intelligence. He’s going to take us as far as we want to go. It starts with him.”
Higgins wants to make sure his final year is his best year and hopes for an opportunity to play in the NFL like Martin.
“Whenever I think I’ve put in enough, I’ve got to put in more. Preparing-wise, lifting, whatever it may be,” he said. “I don’t want to have any regrets. When I’m done (playing football), I want to say I gave it my all, I gave it my best shot and hopefully, success comes along with it.”