Long before he ended up in Cincinnati coaching receivers, Troy Walters was an NFL wideout for eight years. He spent half of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, and he got to witness the rise of one Reggie Wayne.
In 2002, Walters’ first year with the Colts, Wayne began ascending as the secondary option to Marvin Harrison, who was in the middle of his Hall of Fame career. Two years later, Wayne crossed the 1,000-yard threshold for the first of what would be eight times.
But it was Wayne’s sophomore season that still stands out to Walters 20 years later when talking about the Cincinnati Bengals’ No. 2 receiver Tee Higgins.
In a recent interview with Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson, Walters likened Higgins’ second-year jump to that of Wayne, and foresees a similar career arc for him as well.
“By the end of his second season, he was clearly the No. 2 receiver behind Marv,” Walters said of Wayne. “He was still a little raw as a route runner and he needed to work on some of his technique. But in year two he had a great year and ever since then his career ascended and every year he got better and I see Tee as the same type. One year a learning experience, get better in year two and the sky’s the limit. I’m going to stay on him to get better each year so now he’s one of the elite receivers in the league.”
Higgins set the bar high after his productive rookie season, and he certainly eclipsed it in 2021. Including the postseason, the 33rd overall pick from two years ago hauled in exactly 1,400 yards whilst running routes on the same field as Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd.
Along with the clear improvements in his route running, he made tremendous strides in his physical development as well. It all seemed to be coming together in the later part of the season when he was putting up 100-yard outings left and right.
Walters said he needs to stay on Higgins as a coach so he can become an elite receiver, but Higgins is definitely on that path right now. A career that resembles Wayne would be spectacular for him and the Bengals, but even if he falls short of that, he’s got a tremendous future ahead of him. Walters is determined to see that through.