All-American Jay Higgins returning to Iowa in 2024

The Iowa Hawkeyes got fantastic news on Tuesday night.

Star linebacker Jay Higgins revealed he’s returning to the Hawkeyes and Iowa City in 2024. After a breakout season in his first full-time duty as one of Iowa’s starting linebackers, Higgins weighed the opportunity to turn pro against the chance to come back and put more on tape for NFL evaluators.

In the end, one more trip around the sun in the black and gold was what Higgins settled on.

The announcement from Iowa’s official X account was captioned with three simple words: “Run It Back.”

Higgins had a simple message to Iowa fans and the college football world in the social media reveal as well: “I got more to prove.”

A Butkus Award semifinalist this season, Higgins was also selected as a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, Phil Steele and Sports Illustrated. The 6-foot-2, 233 pound senior linebacker was a first-team All-Big Ten choice by both the league’s coaches and media.

After making a pair of starts in 2022, Higgins got his chance to run the show in 2023 with Butkus Award winner Jack Campbell and fellow longtime starter Seth Benson moving on. The Indianapolis native bided his time, and has delivered in a big way this season once the spotlight was his.

With the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl versus Tennessee still to be played, Higgins has racked up a whopping 155 tackles thus far this season. Those 155 tackles rank third nationally and are tops among Power Five players. It also ranks third-most all-time among the Hawkeyes’ individual season bests, trailing only Andre Jackson’s 171 in 1972, Abdul Hodge’s 158 in 2005 and Chad Greenway’s 156 in 2005.

Higgins should supplant both Hodge and Greenway rather quickly in the Citrus Bowl. A final monster effort would push him past or even with Jackson’s 171 if he can register 16 or more tackles versus the Volunteers.

Higgins has also registered five passes defensed, four tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception in 2023.

The Indy native’s return in 2024 can’t be overstated. It’s massive news for the Hawkeyes’ fortunes in the first season of the new-look Big Ten and 12-team College Football Playoff.

Higgins’ return could very well lead to fellow star linebacker Nick Jackson deciding that one more season in Iowa City is the right move for him, too. Jackson just got his waiver for an additional season approved by the NCAA. The 6-foot, 237 pound linebacker currently has 99 tackles on the season with the bowl game left to be played.

While addressing the media on the first day of the early signing period, Tyler Barnes, Iowa’s director of recruiting and NFL liaison, made it clear that recruiting players like Higgins and Jackson back would be he and the Hawkeyes’ first priority over the NCAA transfer portal.

“I have done nothing this December but recruit the six guys on our roster to come back. They’re probably tired of hearing from me. It’s probably why they block my phone number at this point. Those are the priorities,” Barnes said.

This is an initial win for Iowa. The Hawkeyes also await decisions from Jackson, cornerback Cooper DeJean, defensive back Sebastian Castro and tight ends Luke Lachey and Erick All.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire