Former Southern QB Dan Higgins Ready for New Experience in Denmark

By DAVID BIGGY | Mar 20, 2019
Courtesy of: Bridgewater State University Athletics Former Southern Regional and Bridgewater State University quarterback Dan Higgins is headed to Denmark to play professionally.

For Dan Higgins, playing football for four years at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts was more about enjoying the experience as it was competing on the field and developing into an effective collegiate quarterback.

Sure, Higgins played in several NCAA Division III bowl games and helped the Bears to a pair of big seasons. But his plan coming out of Southern Regional High School wasn’t to light up the world.

“I just wanted to experience a different lifestyle,” said Higgins, the former Rams quarterback who went on to throw for more than 6,000 yards during his time with the Bears, most of which occurred during his last three seasons as the starter. “Yeah, I definitely wanted to play football, but I went up there mainly because it was a different culture and place I could meet new people and enjoy a different way of life.”

Last July, Higgins made the choice to experience a new culture all over again when he signed a short-term contract with the Copenhagen Towers of the Danish American Football Federation. He left for Denmark on March 15 and is expected to be the Towers’ starting quarterback when they begin play against the Frederikssund Oaks on March 30.

“I’ve never been to Europe, so this is going to be a great experience,” Higgins said. “Everything I’ve heard and read about Copenhagen is that it’s a great place to be. It’s the capital city and it has a lot of culture. I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my life, experiencing a new kind of lifestyle, meeting some great people and making some memories. It’s going to be a great six months.”

The road to Copenhagen wasn’t paved with extraordinary accolades or much fanfare. A gritty, hard-working type of player, Higgins started at quarterback under Southern coach Chuck Donohue Sr. in 2011 and 2012. During his senior season, the Rams reached the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV sectional title game and lost to Williamstown, but Higgins developed into a solid leader as well as an efficient quarterback.

“Coming from Southern, Coach Donohue and the rest of the staff really challenged me to get better and become a leader on and off the field,” Higgins said. “They groomed me into not only a good quarterback on the field but also in life as a man. When I got to Bridgewater, I had a great foundation. Coach Donohue really helped me understand what I’d be getting into at the college level, and he definitely prepared me for it.”

Higgins went to Bridgewater State with the intention of being the starting quarterback for several seasons. When he arrived, the Bears already had a senior starter on the roster, but the BSU coaching staff pushed Higgins during his freshman year.

“The coaches were tough on me, and I’m glad they were,” he said. “I was always very good at taking criticism and growing from it – I just responded well to criticism and being challenged to get better. So the coaches knew they could push me and I’d progress into what they needed me to be for my next three seasons.”

The Bears went 4-6 during Higgins’ sophomore season, but he completed 162 passes for 2,168 yards and 14 touchdowns. The following season, Higgins led the squad to a 7-4 campaign, tossing 97 completions for 1,569 yards and 13 TDs in 10 games – he was injured and missed one. His senior season, Higgins fired 19 TDs and completed 210 passes for 2,260 yards.

“My sophomore year, we were a run-first team and tried to open up for the long passes on second and third down,” he said. “During my junior year, we developed more into an RPO (run-pass-option) offense and we stuck with that for my senior year, except we were much better at running that offense that year. The coaches trusted me to throw the ball 35-40 times per game and I had two really great receivers.”

Following his collegiate career, Higgins helped the Bears as a student assistant while he finished up coursework for his degree in business marketing, then took a job with FOX25 in Boston. However, Higgins started getting calls from various teams in Europe and he had to make a choice.

“I was at the job at FOX25 for three months and it was great, but I still had the urge to keep playing football,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what to do, really – hang it up, keep playing, go into coaching. It was kind of weird. Ultimately, it came down to my family, friends and coaches encouraging me to give it a try.”

The Towers reached out to Higgins and offered him a deal, which he signed at the end of July. He left Boston and came back home to Manahawkin to begin training. This past fall, he took an assistant coaching position at Manchester, more as a means of getting himself prepared for the upcoming season with the Towers, during which he will be assisting its youth program.

“Football in Europe isn’t like it is here in the states,” Higgins said. “Each professional team there has multiple levels below it, including youth teams. It’s a whole system. So I’ll be playing for the pro team and helping out with coaching the youth players.”

As the quarterback for the Towers’ “elite” team, the 24-year-old will be the field general for a largely RPO-type offense, which runs out of the shotgun formation and utilizes a lot of mid- to long-range passing. After receiving and reviewing the playbook, Higgins even made some suggestions on varying pass patterns – some of which were incorporated.

“This offense totally fits my style as a quarterback,” he said. “It’s a throw-heavy offense ... a lot of inside-outside zone, jet sweeps, some power. I’ll have some sprint-out and bootleg stuff, but not much that will require me to go vertical unless I absolutely have to. And that’s fine, because I’m not exactly the most gifted running quarterback. The style the Towers play will work great for me.”

Still, Higgins is most looking forward to the new lifestyle in Denmark’s capital and surrounding areas.

“I know some guys from college who had gone to Europe to play football, and I have a friend who plays basketball over there,” he said. “Everybody loves it. Going to Europe to play is a great option for a guy like me. It’s not an NFL kind of pay, but what they offered was a nice compensation for what I’ll be doing there and I’m really looking forward to the whole experience.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

(Courtesy of: Bridgewater State University Athletics)
(Courtesy of: Bridgewater State University Athletics)
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