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January 13, 2005SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Many of the receivers from the East squad during practice this week for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl would hoot and holler after they made a big play. But that's not Eric Huggins' style. The four-star receiver from Conway, S.C., simple would make the catch, burn a cornerback or carry out a block and then walk back to the huddle without a word to say.
For Huggins this is all part of his plan, and all part of who he is.
After being somewhat humbled two weeks ago after a disappointing week of practice at the North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl, Huggins has been nothing but business this week. And that business first attitude has resulted in a solid week of practice, giving observers more than enough justification for the lofty ranking as the nation's No. 8 receiver.
"In the last month, I've seen him compete to get a couple A's in classes, and I've seen him compete all over the place," Conway assistant coach Tyler Palisin said.
"That shows me that he's growing up. The first thing about Eric is that he's never going to hoot and holler. That's not his personality. I think the biggest thing that separates the champions from the losers is how you face adversity. Coach Jordan here at Conway has really done a good job of teaching him discipline and how to fight through adversity.
"Eric has gotten off the canvas and shown that he's not afraid to compete."
Huggins agreed that things were different this time around.
"I had a much better week," Huggins, who is 6-foot-3 and 186 pounds, said.
"I was around much better talent and that pushed me to work harder and harder. I made it my goal to come out here this week and prove people that I'm one of the best in the nation, and to do that, I had to get to work and not worry about bringing attention to myself.
"I wanted that attention to come from big catches."
And big catches he did make.
Huggins had solid receptions throughout the week, but Tuesday stood out when he was teamed against cornerback Victor Harris. Huggins streaked down the left sideline and quarterback Jake Christensen lofted a pass to him that was first tipped by Harris. Huggins then left his feet and dived horizontally and snared the ball off the ground for the great catch.
"I'm just trying to make catches that I'm not supposed to catch," Huggins said. "I'm trying to do stuff and make catches that I'm not supposed to. Passes that I'm supposed to drop, I'm going to catch."
Huggins was also extremely deadly on the slip screens throughout the week, something which he hopes he can get Oklahoma receiver coach Darrell Wyatt to run more of when he arrives in Norman to play ball for the Sooners.
"I love that route man," Huggins said. "We ran it in high school. We call it the slip route, and I love that route to death. Everything opens up and it gives you a lot of room to work with. After that you can just turn the jets on and you're gone."
Even though he had a good week of practice, Huggins knows that he still has room for improvement, and that's why his roommate for the week, Patrick Turner, has become a valuable teacher.
"I learned a lot from him," Huggins said. "He talked to me about getting off the line. He showed me some things to help me come off the line physical and strong. He also showed me how to take some steps and once you get that separation to get downfield even faster."
Huggins and Turner have become fast friends and they plan to stay friends even though they're going to be playing football in totally different conferences. Huggins is Big 12 bound and Turner
"He's going to surprise some people," Huggins said with a chuckle. "He's told me where he's going, but you're not going to get it out of me."