"Momma got shot": Tee Higgins recalls tough times growing up, mother's transformation


by - Senior Writer -
Higgins tries to get into the end zone against LSU.
Higgins tries to get into the end zone against LSU.

Tee Higgins was surrounded by a bevy of media members during an interview session for the College Football Playoff, and his answers were straightforward and to the point. That all changed when he was asked about his mother, and the smile that we all know and love appeared and the passionate words of a loving son began to flow.

That continued Tuesday when Higgins wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune about his mother.

His mother, Camillia “Lady” Stewart, has seen each and every catch and been in his corner the entire way. Why? She loves her son, and she loves football, as Higgins explained to TigerNet during the Playoff.

“She loves it. Sometimes I can actually hear her when the stadium gets quiet,” Higgins said. “I can hear her and my sister say, 'Boo! Let's go! Catch the ball.' Especially if I drop one. It is great to have that kind of support.

“During the Georgia Tech game, the defense was on the field and I was on the sideline and I could hear them screaming my name. 'Teeeeeee!!' I looked back and they started waving. It's good to see her and having that type of mother who comes to see you play anywhere and everywhere.”

Higgins told us then that he wanted to do something special for his mother when he received his first NFL paycheck.

“I want to buy her something that she always wanted,” Higgins said. “I want to buy her a car. I have seen the videos like that (where players surprise their mother with a car) and that is something that I would like to do. But right now, I don't have any plans. I am not sure what I am going to do. My mom does have a favorite car, but I am not going to say it.”

In the piece for the Players’ Tribune, Higgins recalls the day in 2005 when his 17-year old sister KeKe picked him up from school and delivered the news that their mother had been shot.

I remember my sister walked me out to the car, and after she put me in, she finally told me why she was crying so hard. She turned to me, and looked me in the eyes, and just came out with it.

“It’s Momma.”

Then she stopped for a second.

“What happened to Momma?” I yelled. “What happened to Momma?!”

“Momma got shot,” KeKe said, and she told me that the man our mom was dating had pulled the trigger. “Momma’s hurt real bad.”

And right then, that’s when I said it.

That’s when those four words somehow came out of the mouth of six-year-old Tamaurice Higgins. In between sobs, I screamed out….

“I’m gonna kill him!!!!!!”

Higgins goes into detail about his mother’s recovery from the shooting, her return to the drugs that led to the shooting, and the fact that she eventually moved into a halfway house in Knoxville. Those trips to see his mother – even in a halfway house – are memories that he cherishes.

There was nothing to do there. The food was … rough. And her room was basically just a twin bed and a chair. I don’t even think there was a window. But to me….

That was better than going to Disneyland.

I could talk with my mom. And joke around and laugh. And….

I could hug her.

Higgins goes into detail about his life in Oak Ridge and even recounts seeing a man shot in the street just a few feet away. The biggest story he presents, however, is the transformation his mother made.

My mom has been clean and present and doing well for so long now that all that stuff from when I was a little kid almost seems like a whole different lifetime. She works as an in-home caregiver and health aid now. She’s healthy and happy and doing great!

When people ask her why she changed her life around, what made her finally beat back the addiction that had her in its grips for so long, she immediately mentions me and my sister.

That’s the first thing out of her mouth … that she wanted to be a better mom and to show us the love we deserved and to be there for us in all the ways that she hadn’t before.

And when I hear that….

I mean I’m getting emotional right now even just thinking about it.

And something I definitely want to get across here at this point is that once my mom got better and was able to turn things around, she’s been the most amazing mom imaginable.

You better believe that she kept me on the straight and narrow all throughout middle school and high school. She made sure I understood the importance of getting a good education and of always trying to do the right thing. I never went anywhere near drugs. Ever. Never really got into any trouble at all. I was that quiet kid who was just always about his business. All I ever wanted to do was whatever I thought would make my mom the most proud.

From as early on as I can remember, I’d always use sports as an escape. And once my mom saw firsthand that I was getting pretty good at football, she realized there was a legit opportunity for me to make a better life for myself.

Higgins is projected to be one of the first wide receivers off the board in the NFL Draft, and he has a message for NFL General Managers who might be looking his way.

"I'm someone who has lived through some stuff, someone who appreciates every single day and goes out of his way to bring a ton of optimism and positive energy to the locker room. My whole vibe is just ... put in the work, never complain, and earn the respect of the veterans. Show people right away that you're someone they can trust, someone who will always have their backs. I'm never going to take anything for granted. Ever. I stay humble. And really, after all that you know about me now, think about it....How could I not?"

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