Elliott Higgins will be one of only 12 seniors on a small McNicholas Rockets roster trying to win a third straight division title in 2014.
But what coach Mike Orlando’s two-time defending Greater Catholic League Coed Central champions lack in numbers, they make up for in quality athletes, students and leaders.
And Higgins is at the top of that list.
“He’s a 4.0 student, a high-academic guy,” Orlando said of his senior linebacker/tight end and three-year starter. “He’s our leader. He was a captain as a junior last year and I’ve never been in a program where a junior was a captain. That’s voted on by his peers. He earned it. The kids look up to him.”
Balancing responsibilities has always been Higgins’ plan.
“Between work, family, sports and school, you just have to find a good balance and manage your time accordingly,” Higgins said. “You can’t put too much into one thing because it will unbalance another and really mess you up. My family is outstanding. They help me out more than I could ever ask for and that really helps me to put more time into football and in the classroom. Those have always been the priorities, but most of all, the classroom. My parents have always showed me the importance of it and my grandpa has as well.”
Higgins led the GCL Coed with 143 tackles last season and added 1.5 sacks and an interception. He’ll be the leader of the defense again in 2014. Although small, Higgins will also have a role on the Rockets’ run first and run second offense from the tight end position.
“He’s a kid we lean on, a smart, smart kid,” Orlando said. “He gets it both physically and mentally.”
Whether in the middle of the Rockets defense or in class, Higgins pursues his target relentlessly.
“For him, it’s his motor,” Orlando said. “He’s a really intense kid on the field, but he’s a really nice kid. He’s going to knock you down and he’ll help you up and be sincere about it. For me, it’s his motor. He keeps on going. He has a will and desire to get things done and he just keeps going. If he makes mistakes, he just works through it.”
Higgins would like to earn a third-straight Central Division title in 2014 and advance further in the playoffs. His Rockets suffered a 52-14 loss to Division IV state champion Clinton-Massie in the second round last season.
“We have a very good shot,” Higgins said. “We had a lot of guys getting experience last year with getting into the second round of the playoffs. With the loss that we had, it gives us all a good bit of motivation to say the least.
“We have a lot of returning starters on offense and I’m really optimistic about our defense. I think we’re going to be one of the best in the Central. We have a very good lineup so far and a lot to work with.”
Higgins is one of several three-year starters.
“I think there’s five of us who have started for three years now and we all just work really hard at it,” Higgins said. “We all really care about football and we really care about the team. We’ve just kind of worked our way up there.”
Higgins said he hopes to play college football next season while studying “something in the business world.” He has had conversations with schools such as Dartmouth and Davidson, and he visited Holy Cross this summer.
Aug. 29: Vs. Turpin, 5:30 p.m. (Skyline Crosstown Showdown at McNicholas High School)
Sept. 5: At Anderson, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: Vs. Wyoming, 2 p.m.
Sept. 20: Vs. Purcell Marian, 1 p.m.
Sept. 26: At Carroll, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: Vs. Bishop Fenwick, 1 p.m.
Oct. 11: At Chaminade Julienne (played at Wayne High School), 7 p.m.
Oct. 18: Vs. Alter, 1 p.m.
Oct. 25: Vs. Roger Bacon, 1 p.m.
Oct. 31: At Badin, 7 p.m., (at Hamilton High School)