Rashard Higgins didn't have the best start to 2017. The Browns cut the then-second year wide receiver on Sept. 3, and signed him to the practice squad.
After being cut, Higgins had honest conversations with the coaching staff about what he needed to do to be better. "It was just a numbers game at that point," Higgins said. "I was just the odd man out. It was nothing that I could have controlled."
But Higgins didn't pack it in and give up; he continued to work and was promoted to the active roster two weeks later. Higgins' up-and-down season ended on a high note. In the Browns' Week 17 loss to the Steelers, he had two touchdown catches — the first two of his career.
The touchdowns were something "Hollywood" Higgins was motivated to do. He asked Corey Coleman the night before the game what it was like to get a touchdown in the NFL. He dreamed about scoring one. He went out and scored two.
He was just getting started.
"I never want to be in that predicament again," Higgins said. "I'm doing whatever I can to not have the coaches say 'oh, we need to cut him.' That's how I'm approaching things."
Now, he's making the highlight reel in training camp. Part of that is the leadership of Jarvis Landry, who led the league in catches last season. Higgins refers to Landry as a mentor, and he learns from Landry on and off the field. He compares Landry to another receiver he latched onto when he was a rookie: Andrew Hawkins, who guided him through the 2016 season.
Of course, he also began bonding with Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield. Taylor flew Higgins and other players to Los Angeles in the offseason to train and run routes. The workouts were completely funded by Taylor. Food, hotel, flight, he paid for everything, and Higgins was grateful.
"That's what being a leader is all about," Higgins said. "I've never seen a quarterback do anything like that."
Higgins isn't getting many repetitions with Taylor for now. He's running through practice with the second team while Taylor works with the first unit. Higgins has, however, created some chemistry with Mayfield. They're linking up for completions every day, carving through the Browns' second-team secondary at times.
Mayfield and Higgins sit together at lunch, talk with each other during team meetings and even joke with each other. Higgins is also learning from Taylor and Drew Stanton, veterans in the league that have been through situations, but he and Mayfield have a friendship.
He can ask Taylor questions, talk through the offense with Stanton and learn with Mayfield. Each quarterback has something to provide for Higgins' development with the Browns.
"(Mayfield) jokes around all the time," Higgins said. "As soon as I get in (the facility), he might do something."
At the beginning of training camp, Higgins had a bit of an unknown status hovering around him. But he's making plays and joking with Mayfield, and he's gaining confidence as each day passes. When asked about how long of a career his pal Mayfield could have, followed by how long of a career he will have, Higgins answered with the same thing: "Ten-plus years."