“We had a flashback because like I was telling him, it just seems like yesterday I was a rookie and he was in his third year in Philly and we were having some good years,” Hicks would say after the practice. “I remember saying to some of the older guys, ‘Man, what year is this for you guys?’ And they were like, seven, eight, nine. I was like, dang, you guys are old! What? Seven, eight?
“So now, this is 11 (seasons for me) and one of the rookies asked me this morning how many years this is for me and I said 11. He said, man, wow!”
The rookie was
This time, as he was telling the story, Hicks had a big smile on his face.
That smile is there often these days as Hicks prepares for his first season with the Dolphins. Hicks is still going strong 10 years after entering the league as an undrafted rookie himself and he continues to enjoy the ride.
“It’s just a blessing,” Hicks said. “Every day I wake up I’m thankful for having an opportunity to come out here and play another year because a lot of guys that came in my draft class have been long gone. I can just go down the line and rip names off. Every day out here, every year out here is a blessing. You have to look at it like that.”
Hicks also is excited about his new opportunity with the Dolphins, his fourth team in the last four years.
After spending four seasons with Philadelphia and four more with Minnesota, Hicks played with Washington in 2010 before joining the Cleveland Browns last year.
Obviously, there’s something to be said for stability, but Hicks actually turned down the chance to return to Cleveland for a second year to sign with the Dolphins.
“It’s a lot about opportunity,” Hicks said. “I liked it in Cleveland, don’t get me wrong. Those guys have a very talented, young team and they’re going to be real good real soon. But, you know, sometimes change is good and they offered me a good situation and the rest has been history.”
One thing the Dolphins offered was the chance to continue playing in a West Coast type of offense, which is all Hicks has known in the NFL.
In fact, Hicks said the system played a “tremendous part” in his decision to sign with the Dolphins.
The big question for Hicks, as it often is, concerns where he’ll line up along the offensive line.
See, Hicks is among the most versatile offensive linemen in the league. He has started games at every spot up front except for center.
“That’s one of my biggest assets,” Hicks said. “I’ve had a lot of experience at four of the five positions. The only thing I never played is center. I never had an interest in center. I can’t get used to the concept of a guy’s hands between my legs.
“That’s been a tremendous part of my longevity, being that I’ve played across the board pretty much. It’s something that I’ve embraced because a lot of guys can’t do that. You have to be a very sharp guy mentally and you have to understand concepts and be flexible and adjust.”
Hicks has started 71 games throughout his career, including three last year for the Browns, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could start for the Dolphins.
At the very least, he should provide them with experience and versatility.
It’s also not like Hicks is going to spend a lot of time sweating it.
“Every year you have to come in with that mind-set that I’ve got to prove myself,” he said. “That’s where I’m at. I’ve been like that every year. You’ve got to come in with the attitude that I’m going to prove myself again. You don’t worry about what happens upstairs or where you should be on the depth chart because all you can do is take care of what’s done out here between these lines. The rest is out of your hands, so don’t worry about it.
“They told me, nothing was promised. The only thing they could promise me was a fair shot. And that’s all you can ask for in this profession. Give me a fair shot. What I do out here, I control. I’ll probably move around and play a little guard, too. But I pretty much knew that coming in. It’s nothing new, it’s nothing unexpected.”
Hicks’ career highlight no doubt was starting 13 games at left guard for the 2004 Eagles team that went to the Super Bowl. That was four teams ago, though.
The good news for Hicks is that whenever a team has decided to let him go, there’s been at least one other that wanted him.
That was the case this spring when not only the Dolphins, but also the Carolina Panthers, were trying to pry him away from Cleveland.
“You move around in this profession sometimes,” Hicks said, “and you just have to jump in and learn as much as you can as fast as you can and make the most out of the situation.
“In this profession, it’s good to be wanted. In life, it’s good to be wanted. You have to fill your end of the bargain, too. You have to go out there and produce. That’s where I’m at. I love being here. I chose to sign here because I thought the team was going in the right direction. I loved everything about the organization when I came here on my visit. There’s a lot of young talent here, there’s a lot of great coaching here and it’s just a matter of time until things line up.”