June 16, 2010
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - With the veteran safety tandem of Jeffery Gowdy and Adrian Horton no longer at Fayetteville State, the Broncos' secondary will look to a new leader this fall; Wilmington native John Hicks. A redshirt senior, Hicks has been with FSU since 2006 and has developed into one of the conference's top cornerbacks. In 2009, Hicks had 24 tackles, four pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery that helped the Broncos to their third Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) title.
"In the time that he's been here, I've watched him mature and develop into a terrific football player," said David Bowser, FSU's defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator. "That's the great thing about getting a kid out of high school; you get a great appreciation from where they came from. He's very hungry and he's always willing to improve.
As important as his play on the field is Hicks' leadership. Horton and Gowdy's graduation opened up, for the first time, Hicks' ability to be a vocal leader.
"The coaches want me to be here to guide the younger guys," Hicks said. "The biggest thing I can show them is preparation. I can show them how to study your craft, how to watch film and how to prepare for each game."
A lot of Hicks' leadership style, comes from his brother Tony Hicks, who was a linebacker on the Broncos' 2002 and 2003 CIAA Championship teams.
Hicks, along with sophomore corner Joshua Wilkins, are the two lone returning starters in Bowser's defensive backfield. Junior Andre Lyles completes the experienced three-some from last season. That doesn't mean Hicks expects anything less from his unit this season. Last year, FSU finished 11th in the country in pass defense and fourth in pass defense efficiency.
"I've played with Lyles since 2007 and then Wilkins; we have chemistry," said Hicks. "I have a lot of trust in the guys still here, because we were able to build on our relationship outside of football. I love playing with those guys and I trust that they are willing to step up."
An integral part of playing corner - at FSU or anywhere - is quickly forgetting negative plays. Hicks said it took him almost two years to fully grasp that concept.
"It comes with experience," he explained. "The more games you play, the more you know you're not going to win every battle. You have to learn how to deal with defeat sometimes."
Dealing with defeat and setbacks is something Hicks hopes to quickly impart on some of the younger Broncos.
"They just have to not beat themselves up," he said. "That's something that comes with being young. You want to be perfect and not have to answer to your coach. The more games you play, the more you learn to keep your composure."
In FSU Head Coach Kenny Phillips' defensive system, corners are often required to play near the line of scrimmage and help stop the run. Bowser said Hicks' physical nature makes that natural for him.
"John has no problem with coming up on run support," Bowser said. "I never have to worry about, week-to-week, if John is willing to put his body on the line. You have to be willing to run and be willing to put a pad on somebody if you're going to play defense for Coach Phillips."
Added Hicks: "Sometimes you might be intimidated by how big the guy you're tackling is. But you just put aside and make the play."
Heading into his final season with the Broncos, Hicks said he has thought a good deal about his time at FSU.
"It's been a great experience," he said. "Fayetteville State raised me and I'm proud to say that I've played here my entire career in college. I'm proud of this program."
The Broncos and Hicks open up the season with the 2nd Annual Two Rivers Classic at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
What would be an ideal ending for Hicks' football career?
"We want to win back-to-back CIAA Championships of course," Hicks said. "We want to go deeper into the (NCAA Division II) playoffs. We don't want to be just a conference championship team, we want to go further."