If you’re thinking of buying a Tee Higgins jersey, you might want to wait a year. The second-year Bengals wide receiver told reporters Thursday that he intends to switch from No. 85 to No. 5 after the 2021 season. The move will reunite Higgins with the number he wore in high school and college before entering the NFL, but as The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. notes, it mostly stems from the young pass catcher’s desire to create a legacy separate from that of former Bengals star Chad Johnson.
Johnson wore No. 85 for all of his 10 seasons in Cincinnati, where he logged six Pro Bowl appearances and more than 10,000 career receiving yards from 2001-2010. Of course, his big name became so synonymous with his jersey number that he also literally changed his name to Chad Ochocinco, which he held from 2008-2012, before reverting to Chad Johnson. Higgins took over No. 85 after entering as a second-round draft pick in 2020, attempting to incorporate his No. 5 from Clemson before the NFL loosened jersey restrictions to allow skill-position players to wear single digits.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” Higgins said Thursday. “I just feel like Chad has done so much for this organization. I just got a good feeling that his number is going to be lifted one day. I just want to make a name for myself. A lot of people keep saying on Twitter ‘Ochocinco 2.0.’ I don’t want to be a 2.0. No disrespect to Chad. He’s a great receiver. I just don’t want to be a 2.0 for myself. I want to be Tee Higgins 1.0 and No. 5 and make a name for myself for this organization.”
Higgins, for what it’s worth, is off to a decent start. The 22-year-old caught 67 passes for 908 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, quickly establishing himself as a favorite target of quarterback Joe Burrow. On Sunday, kicking off his second season, he hauled in another four passes for 58 yards and a score, helping Cincinnati upset the Vikings.
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