Five, six, pick up Hicks

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NFL scouts debate the talent of Akiem Hicks

Ed Kapp
Sports Writer

For almost as long as Akiem Hicks – who has anchored the University of Regina Rams defensive line for the past two seasons – can remember, he has dreamt of making his living on the gridiron.

“My biggest goal is to play at the next level,” Hicks, 22, explained to the Carillon in January. “Every person that straps on a pair of football pads has dreams of playing at that level. Whether they’re from Canada or Sacramento, California, they have that same dream. I hope that I’m able to accomplish it."

Following Hicks’ participation at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine last week, the California product is now one step closer to fulfilling his dream of someday collecting cheques in the highly competitive world of professional football.

The NFL Scouting Combine is an annual four-day event where hundreds of draft-eligible football players converge on Indianapolis for the opportunity to showcase their skills before coaches, doctors, executives and scouts from across the NFL.

In what some describe as a de facto job interview for future employment in professional football, players can compete in a number of events that are intended to test their athletic ability. Camp invitees participate in the 40-yard-dash, see how many times they can bench press 225 pounds, and try their hand at the shuttle run, the three-cone drill and both the broad and vertical jump, as well as position-specific drills. In all, the aspiring athletes are given up to 60 opportunities to meet with potential employers from across the NFL.

Although some are skeptical of how much a Scouting Combine performance can predict on-field performance – the event has jokingly been dubbed the “Underwear Olympics” in the past – the combine results can nevertheless play a major role in potential draft placement.

For instance, after a standout career at Florida State, wide receiver Anquan Boldin slipped well into the second round of the 2003 NFL draft after posting a pedestrian 40-yard dash time during his combine experience. Since Boldin’s first professional outing – in which the former Arizona Cardinal and current Baltimore Raven registered more than 200 receiving yards – he has claimed nearly 700 receptions and 9,000 yards en route to being named to three Pro Bowl squads.

New England Patriots signal caller Tom Brady, who will undoubtedly go down as one of the best quarterbacks of all time, was – thanks in part to an underwhelming performance at the combine – selected 199th overall in the 2000 NFL draft.

During his time in Indianapolis, Hicks – who understands just how important the combine is in professional football – participated in the 40-yard dash (5.23 seconds), bench press (26 reps with 225 pounds), three-cone drill (7.75 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.86 seconds), and both the broad (108 inches) and vertical jump (31 inches) events.

Although Hicks represented the Rams well at the Scouting Combine, according to his scouting report at NFL.com, the jury is still out on the two-time Canada West All Star defensive lineman.

“Hicks has the frame to fit in nicely, not only at [defensive tackle] but potentially outside at end in a 3-4 scheme,” the report said. “He is athletic and shows a strong burst and agility off the snap to get into his opposing offensive linemen. He has decent strength to defeat blockers, but is more reliable to make an athletic move and quickly get into the backfield. He is athletic in open space, and this is where his value is most evident. He has NFL-caliber size, agility and burst off the ball.”

“Hicks has been a slow developer who has played two full seasons of junior college ball (Sacramento City College) and then two seasons in Canada. It remains to be seen how readily adaptable his skills are to the pros given that level of competition. While teams might want him as an end based off his size, Hicks can get overwhelmed at the point of attack against double teams, and doesn’t have many moves in his arsenal to counter. He is a decent run defender, but plays too upright at times; technique is the main hitch in his game in all aspects.”

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