Former receiver fuels defense with skill

No. 17 senior safety Mike Hicks intercepts the ball inside the Baylor 10 yard line to hold SFA scoreless early in the first quarter. Baylor won the rain-shortened game, 48-0, on Sept. 17, 2011, at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Matthew McCarroll | Lariat Photographer

By Daniel Wallace
Sports Writer

Junior safety Mike Hicks has been one of the prime defensive stars for the Bears this young season. It was Hicks who had the dramatic game-winning interception in the waning seconds of the game against the TCU Horned Frogs on Sept. 2. Hicks also had an interception in Saturday’s 48-0 victory over Stephen F. Austin.

Hicks spoke of his two interceptions already this season and his knack for making big plays, but did not credit himself.

“I think it just happens to be me at the right place at the right time,” he said. “I feel like anyone in my position could have made it. I wouldn’t consider it luck because we’ve been out there working hard everyday at practice.”

The China Spring, Tex. native played in 23 games his first two seasons at Baylor as a reserve safety and a special teams regular. In spring drills this year, he won the stating cover safety position for the Bears. Hicks was a standout all-purpose athlete at China Spring High School where he finished no. 2 in career receiving yards in Texas high school history with 4,328 yards to go along with 41 touchdowns. Hicks came to Baylor as a receiver and his catching skills have paid off for the team, just on the other side of the ball.

“The reason Mike is able to make plays on balls is because he was a high school receiver,” head coach Art Briles said. “That’s one of the things we look for when evaluating DBs—can they make a play in the air?”

Senior running back Terrance Ganaway said that Hicks is a player who works hard, trains hard and plays hard. He added that Hicks prepares his body and mind for the game and that allows him to make great plays on the ball. He appreciates his interceptions and leadership on the defense but would like to see him execute more of his physical strength by making some more big hits on defense.

“Mike Hicks is fast, has great hands and he’s like a receiver back there,” he said. “He understands receivers so I bet it comes a little bit naturally to defend them. I’m ready for him to lay some hits.”

Junior quarterback Robert Griffin III said Hicks is a crafty, smart player with a strong work ethic. He added that if Hicks ever makes a mistake, being the defensive leader he is, Hicks is going to make sure he makes up for it.

“He’s a leader on that defense,” Griffin said. “It’s great to have a local kid like that come to Baylor and do great things.”

Hicks was quick to credit his recent success on the defense to playing against the high-octane Baylor offense in practice. He believes that in practice, he is playing against some of the best receivers in the nation and that allows for him and the rest of the defense to be put to the test.

“To tell you the truth, I think we have one of the best receiving corps in the nation,” he said. “It helps us out tremendously. If we go up against them, then I feel like we can hang with anybody.”

Briles also spoke of Hicks’ versatility. He believes that Hicks is a player who could also succeed on offense for the Bears if need be.

“With Mike you never have an issue because he’s caught a lot of footballs,” he said. “It was just a good fit for Mike. If it didn’t work out defensively, he’s a guy who could come over and play inside receiver for us right now just because he’s a good football player and knows how to play the ball.”

To go along with his two interceptions in as many games to start the season, Hicks also has recorded 12 tackles, including a career-high 10 in the opening game against TCU.