Hollywood, the city of stars and bright futures.
Colorado State sophomore wide receiver Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins has got the star power, and anyone who has watched the 6-foot-2, 188-pound sophomore run routes and catch touchdowns knows his future is bright.
“I’m beyond impressed,” quarterback Garrett Grayson said of Higgins. “It’s a huge confidence boost — hitting Rashard with the deep ball — it makes you feel good.”
Higgins has been making the plays that Grayson talks about for a long time — since his peewee days in the heart of football-crazed Texas. His coach told him he would start calling him “Hollywood” if he kept making those big plays, which he did.
But more than receiving the nickname that would forever stick with him, including ending up as a tattoo on his back, Higgins found his motivation to compete to early on.
“My brother was a grade older than me, so I remember thinking ‘man, if I’m good enough, I could play on the E team with my brother.’ So I competed every day,” Higgins said. “It never happened and now I hold that grudge on myself. Like, I’ve got to go get better. That’s what makes me get out here every day and compete.”
Surely, the brash 19-year-old rising star would not hold on to a slight that happened 12 years before. But he does.
Higgins looks the part of someone who belongs on Hollywood Boulevard, with the signature gold flash in his impeccably-kept flat top haircut. He may know how to work a camera, flashing a million-dollar smile while effortlessly tossing the football. And yes, he knows he has talent, a confidence steadying his brown eyes when he talks about being named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list as one of the top receivers in the nation. But there’s more to Higgins than all the flash, there’s a fire, a will to succeed that burns deeper and brighter than any of the lights in the city he copped his nickname from.
“It’s just my name man, I enjoy it,” Higgins said. “I think people call me Hollywood and expect big things out of me, so I’ve got to put on a show for them.”
And while he never fails to entertain — the sophomore has 306 yards and three touchdowns in three games this year — he plays for far more than himself.
Last year, Higgins dealt with the death of his biological father to lung cancer. Although the cancer did not allow Higgins and his father to spend much time together, the loss hit him hard.
“Growing up without my dad, it was hard on me. My mom took care of me and it was hard on her, too,” Higgins said, dropping his charismatic tone. “I don’t want her to stress anymore. That’s why I have to go to the NFL.”
Higgins carries the memories of his father with him to every game he plays. If you look closely enough at any of Higgins’ touchdown receptions, you’ll see his hands go up at the same time as the referee’s, but instead of signaling the touchdown, he is taking that split-second to pay to tribute to his dad.
“Dad, I ain’t forgot about you man, I know you’re up there watching me,” Higgins recites. “It’s for you.”
There is no doubt Higgins is making his father proud, quickly establishing himself as a one of the best receivers in the entire pass-happy Mountain West. The story “Hollywood” Higgins will only continue to grow, and so too will the stigma that goes with it, good or bad.
As for Higgins, at the end of this season, he plans on making a new addition to the “Hollywood” tattoo that spans his upper back.
“Coming here, my freshman year, I knew they had to know me — so I put Hollywood on my back — but I told them to leave a space,” Higgins said. “So I can put his name, and say “Rest In Peace,” right next to my Hollywood tattoo. So they know, it’s for him.”Collegian Sports Reporter Micky Rastrelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @c_rasta5.