The scenic route
Akiem Hicks’ road to the NFL has been long and drawn out
To say that Akiem Hicks has taken a unique route to the NFL’s doorstep would be something of an understatement.
Hicks has anchored the University of Regina Rams defensive line for the past two seasons, but first took to the gridiron in the ninth grade in his native California. After an impressive high school campaign, Hicks agreed to take his talents to Sacramento City Community College after graduation.
Following a pair of standout seasons in Sacramento – in which time he established himself as one of the junior college system’s most enticing prospects – Hicks was recruited by Louisiana State University, an outfit that has played in three national-championship matches during the past decade.
But due to minor recruiting violations that came to light, before Hicks ever played a down for the Tigers, a widespread investigation ensued and he was deemed ineligible to play in the NCAA.
After spending five months in Colorado Springs – where he was under the employment of DirecTV and completely removed from collegiate football – Hicks was invited by Frank McCrystal, the long-time head coach of the U of R Rams, to suit up for his football squad.
Following a pair of dominant seasons in Regina, the two-time Canada West all-star defensive lineman was invited to the East-West Shrine Game – an annual high-level all-star game in the United States that has featured future NFLer’s Tom Brady and Brett Favre.
After Hicks’ performance at the East-West Shrine Game in January, he was invited to travel to Indianapolis to showcase his talents at the 2012 Scouting Combine – a yearly event in which more than 300 of the NCAA’s top draft-eligible players have the opportunity to work out and meet with personnel from teams across the NFL.
Over the past few months, Hicks’ on-field performance has gotten him attention from various front offices around the NFL. Representatives from 17 squads oversaw his recent pro day and the six-foot-five, 313-pound defensive lineman got a workout with the defensive line coach of the Carolina Panthers.
But Hicks’ journey to this point has arguably gotten him more attention than his performance on the gridiron.
Although Hicks claimed – unlike many other prospects with unique backgrounds – he hasn’t been asked any truly bizarre questions by decision makers across the NFL. However, his path to the pinnacle of the sport has nevertheless been a topic of conversation in recent months.
“To be honest, I can’t say that there were strange questions, because I have so much stuff in the past that they go over,” explained Hicks, 22. “It’s not character-stuff, it’s just more so they want to understand how a young man went from Sacramento to Louisiana to Colorado Springs to Regina, Saskatchewan.”
Hicks’ story – not surprisingly – has also drawn interest from several of those a little bit closer to the young defensive lineman.
“One of my coaches told me that I should make a diary or a journal, because it’s such a captivating, long, interesting story, you know what I mean?” Hicks said.
“… I don’t feel like anybody would waste their time reading about what I did [laughs], but some of my mentors and coaches said that I should really write it down, because it’s interesting. It’s something not a lot of people have done. A lot of people have switched schools, but who has switched schools and switched countries at the same time?”
According to Hicks – who said he will be at home with his family when the NFL holds its draft in April – he isn’t ready to pen his memoirs just yet.
“It’s still unfolding,” said Hicks, who hopes to play football “until the wheels fall off.” “We still have another half a book to write, you know what I mean?”