Asked if he’d rather make an impact tackle on special teams or catch a pass for a first down, TCU’s TreVontae Hights didn’t take long to answer.
He’d much rather tackle a returner inside the 10-yard line than catch a first down.
“It’s just a different feeling. I can’t explain it,” Hights said. “The first down catch is nice and all, is good for your offense, but if you tackle them inside the 10 it crushes their momentum. And gives us momentum.”
That’s a fitting answer for Hights. He’s one of the Frogs’ special teams aces.
He made two tackles on special teams in the season-opening victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and had another special teams tackle in the victory at Purdue.
Hights has missed the last two games with an injury, but is hopeful to return for this week’s game at Iowa State. TCU certainly wants him back to ensure Iowa State’s struggling return game doesn’t come to life.
“If he could play this Saturday, it’s big because he’s an unbelievable coverage guy,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “Our kickoff hasn’t been as good since he’s been [out]. He’s a motivational guy, not only as how he plays, but he brings everybody else with him. And to get an older player back on the field who can play wide receiver is important also. That position hasn’t been as good without him here.”
Hights flashed his receiving potential in the UAPB game, finishing with 108 yards on eight receptions with a long of 47. But this is a guy who has always made a name for himself on special teams.
Hights recalled his first signature moment with TCU, making a tackle on special teams in the SMU game in 2016. He also had a 42-yard reception in that game.
“For me, special teams was the door opener,” said Hights, who had a standout high school career at Yoakum. “Just getting the opportunity, any opportunity you get, you have to make yourself useful. Special teams was that first one for me. Of course I love playing receiver but special teams is really fun for me too.”
Hights had five tackles on special teams in 2017, and four more last season. But it’s the missed tackles that stand out at times.
The last time TCU visited Iowa State in 2017, Hights vividly recalled missing a tackle on punt return in the first quarter.
Cyclones returner Trever Ryen caught the ball at his own 4-yard line and, after Hights slipped on the play, turned it into a 42-yard return.
“I slipped and fell and the returner went right by me down the sidelines,” Hights said, shaking his head. “That was a huge play cause I could’ve tackled him on the 1. It’s a testament. I learned from it. As a team, it hurt but that next few weeks we won.”
Yes, TCU responded by winning three of its next four and reached the Big 12 championship game. The Frogs went on to have an 11-win season, closing with an impressive victory over Stanford in the Alamo Bowl.
But the goal this time around is to win at Iowa State for the first time since 2015, and get off to a 2-0 start in Big 12 play. Of course, Hights would like to return to game action in the process too.
“It’s been the longest few weeks ever, but it makes it a lot easier when your teammates go out there and they play well,” Hights said. “It’s been a long two weeks, but it’s also been a joy to watch my teammates go out there and shine.”