Higgins earns starting I-back spot

When Eric Higgins arrived at New Mexico State University last year to challenge for the I-back position on the Aggie football team, he knew he had some work to do.

Higgins had to beat out veterans Walter Taylor and Tony Bostic. He ultimately won the starting position and for much of the season was dependable. He gained 499 yards on 94 attempts and ran for three touchdowns.

But his season was cut short when he injured his right knee. "Last year he came in and worked hard to earn a starting spot," said Aggies running backs coach Mike Garrison. "He had to beat out guys that were here and he won that spot because he had a great desire. He's healthy again and he seems faster that last year."

Despite his season-ending knee injury, Higgins was still happy about the season he had. "It was tough missing those games with injury, but I felt I matured and learned the offense well," said Higgins, who will be a senior this year. "It was tough at the start of last year because I was learning something new and trying to get into the flow of the offense. But this year I am more relaxed, more confident in what I have to do and in my ability."

Arthroscopic surgery in December was successful, and Higgins didn't experience any ill effects throughout spring practices and summer conditioning.

"My right knee is sound, I feel strong," he said. "I just want to go out and have a good senior year. Last year I was doing good when I got hurt."

Higgins said the versatility of the Aggies backfield should make his job easier this season and life tougher for opposing defenses. "Tony Joseph is a big back; Tony Bostic can make people miss, and at fullback Marcus Dixon is solid. He makes life easy for the I-backs," Higgins said. "The guys we have at running back are good guys. They are very competitive and that is good for us."

Higgins, who starred at Reedley (Calif.) Junior College, and at Dunbar High School in Lexington, Ky., has deep feelings about football and said he owes a great deal to the sport.

"Football has been a savior for me," Higgins said. "I have a great passion for the game. I take every practice seriously, I take every game seriously. The game means so much to me. I have fun playing. I've had a great opportunity in life to play the game I love and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it and take in all I can." Mike Garrison, who coaches the Aggie running backs, said Higgins is one of the toughest backs he's coached and one of the most enjoyable to be around."

"Eric played with a broken finger in a game last year, so that should say a lot about him," Garrison said. "He loves of the game of football and he practices like he plays, which is hard. I expect him to have a big season. He was on his way last year before hurting his knee."

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