Football: Higgins leaning on team, community in aftermath of fire
Cody Junot, The Advertiser, Aug. 24, 2019
For UL senior defensive lineman Bennie Higgins, everything changed with a phone call on Aug. 15.
Higgins, the Cajuns second-leading returning tackler received news shortly after a practice session that his home was gone. A fire had ripped through Higgins' apartment. Thankfully no one was harmed in the blaze, but plenty was lost.
“It's been hard because I don't have a house, but just knowing my family is safe and nothing happened to them — I'm grateful,” he told reporters.
But as Higgins and Cajuns continue to prepare for the 2019 season, the senior from Greenwood, Mississippi, is leaning on the Lafayette community and his team to get him through. In news that is unsurprising to anyone, the Cajun community has responded in an overwhelming way.
“I'm really grateful to this community for all of the stuff they're doing and donating to me; I'm very honored,” Higgins said.
In the immediate aftermath, UL director of football operations Troy Wingerter helped Higgins to find a place to stay. While Wingerter was busy working on housing, UL director of on-campus recruiting Katie Turner, along with Cajun compliance department, set up a GoFundMe account to aid Higgins and his family.
The university has also been able to assist Higgins and his family through the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund.
"I think it's a tribute to our community, the type of people that we have here. I think that we oftentimes say we want to be a team that reflects our community and in this community, people give you the shirt off their back and that's certainly what's happening."
Higgins sees the tragedy as a teaching opportunity for him to pass along to his two young children, who are both back in Mississippi with his mother.
“My kids — I don't want my kids to see me down; I don't want my kids to see my crying. I know haven't seen them, but I'm going to just keep working and hopefully, I can get a place to stay so I can get them back to me.”
Despite having to worry about replacing his home and the numerous material items that were lost away from the field, Higgins is all business when at practice or in meetings as UL prepares for Saturday’s season opener against Mississippi State.
“The fire is the last thing on my mind. I know coach Wingerter and coach Napier have my back, they aren't going to let hangover,” he said, “I'm just trying to stay positive and stay focused on football and let the process work on its own.”
"Everything happens for a reason, I'm just going to put it in God's hands and keep moving forward."