April 12, 2011
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Even though he was a high school tight end the recruiting services labeled an “athlete,” Dan Hicks knew all about being a tomahawk-chopping, NFL-dreaming, dominating defensive end long before he ever stepped foot on Florida State’s campus.
Hicks, now a redshirt sophomore and part of a talented group of defensive ends, grew up with a father that in his prime was also part of a group of defensive ends at FSU that were quite talented, too.
As the son of former player Dan Footman, Hicks has had the unique opportunity in his lifetime to grow up with access to a father that turned his ability to rush the quarterback into a starring role for the Seminoles and eventual NFL pay check.
“I’ve definitely seen some highlights of him and he was a great player,” Hicks said. “He doesn’t usually brag on himself but he helps explain to me what it takes to be a great player. He uses his wisdom to teach me.”
It’s that wisdom – combined with the teachings of Florida State defensive ends coach Brandon Jenkins on the right side of the line.
Not too bad for a Mississippi native that was primarily viewed as an athletically-intriguing recruit without a specific position during his playing days at Oxford High School.
“Mainly in high school I was an offensive player so making the transition from offense to defense was a big difference,” Hicks said. “It’s more of an attack instead of blocking a defender. So it’s the opposite. I’m doing more tackling and using my hands and that was the hardest thing for me. As far as making contact, a lot of defensive players like to hit and that wasn’t hard for me. I was a contact type of guy in high school. I used to always use my head which was bad technique, so my main emphasis was to use my hands more.
“I realized how much I liked that last year when I watched film.”
As one-fourth of a primary rotation of defensive ends that features Bjoern Werner and newcomer Tank Carradine in addition to Jenkins, Hicks has taken those lessons learned and is a key cog of a defensive unit that expects to be very good in 2011.
A playing member of the 1991 and 1992 FSU football teams, Footman also knew a thing or two about dominating defenses. Hicks grew up watching film of his father register a combined 102 tackles and 8.5 sacks over two seasons in Tallahassee while being part of teams that won the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl.
Footman later turned his Florida State career into a second-round selection by the Cleveland Browns in the 1993 NFL Draft. Hicks’s father would go on to play six seasons in the league with the Browns, Ravens and Colts.
“I had always wanted to come to Florida State since I was a kid,” Hicks said. “I’ve just always liked watching Florida State football, but to know that he played here, too; that’s a good thing. He has always been able to talk to me about what it was like when he was here and what I can do to be successful. That right there is the father-son bond that we have.”
It’s that bond that helps fuel Hicks’ hard-working engine every time he works out in the weight room or lines up against an offensive tackle at practice.
And on Saturdays in the fall when Hicks puts on that garnet-and-gold uniform and runs on to Bobby Bowden Field, he knows that proudly watching from the stands is someone who — like himself — also wore jersey No. 58 at Florida State.
“Knowing he’s there, I mean it just feels good to have your dad looking on you while you’re out there playing,” Hicks said with a smile. “It’s definitely something I appreciate and something I look forward to every time.”