Texas Tech University wide receiver Jarrett Hicks recently took time to answer a few questions from SCS.com. Hicks, an excellent example of a true student-athlete, is one of the top wideouts in the Big XII and is a returning junior in Lubbock. After being selected to the All-Big XII First Team following the 2004 campaign, Hicks was recently named a 2005 Preseason All-American by NationalChamps.net. The Red Raiders, who won eight games a year ago, will open the 2005 season on September 10 at home against Division I newcomer Florida International. (photo courtesy texastech.com)
JARRETT HICKS, TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY
SCS.com: You had an outstanding career at Sharpstown High School in Houston. You were named the team's most Outstanding Receiver, Offensive MVP, and Team MVP as a senior. SuperPrep chose you as an honorable mention selection to its All-Midlands Region squad after you had nearly 700 receiving yards and a half-dozen touchdowns in your final season at Sharpstown. Talk about the highlights of your high school career and how it prepared you for college life, both on and off the field.
Hicks: "My high school career didnít have too many highlights. All three years that I played there, we were 4-6 and never made the playoffs. The good thing out of all of that was that it taught me how to deal with failure and how to rebound from it. Thatís something we all have to face on the football field, in the classroom, and in the real world. But the 700 yards receiving I got my senior season was definitely a highlight because it was in a tough district, and I was on a team that primarily ran the option."
SCS.com: Coming out of high school, you were recruited by a number of high-profile schools. What other colleges did you seriously consider, and why did you ultimately decide to attend Texas Tech?
Hicks: "Georgia Tech and Louisiana Tech looked my way a little bit, but Texas Tech and Pudue were the two of serious consideration. I wanted to be at a good institution and also near my family, and both of those places fit. Iím from Houston, but I also have a lot of family in Indiana. I made a visit to both schools and was impressed by both, but I enjoyed Tech the most. From the moment I stepped foot out here, I could feel a family-type atmosphere. Everyone was so close and worked well with each other, and I could see that this program was on the rise. Those issues together made it easy for me to choose the Red Raiders."
SCS.com: You come from an impressive sports family. Your father James played professional baseball for the Cardinals and Angels, and your brother Broderick played basketball at Wake Forest. With three brothers and two sisters around the house, I'm sure there was always a little friendly competition taking place. Talk about the influence your family has had on your football career and your life in general.
Hicks: "There was definitely competition amongst us all. Two of my brothers lived with me in Houston and the others lived in Indiana, and all of us were active in multiple sports. All of us went out and did well in sports, but the competition was trying to make a name for yourself out of the six of us. They all pushed me to be great, and when I signed to come to Texas Tech, they pushed me even harder. They are always checking up on me, and with my parents included, they are probably tougher than most of the coaches Iíve had. Between my dad and my brother, they know how hard it is to be a student-athlete on this level, so they always encourage me and help me make it through."
SCS.com: After redshirting in 2002, you got your first on-the-field action in 2003 as a redshirt freshman. That season saw you haul in five touchdowns and compile nearly 500 receiving yards. Talk about the adjustment from high school football to college football. What are the biggest differences between the two?
Hicks: "The adjustment between high school football and college football was a challenging one. To go from being the big man on campus in high school to being just another freshman was very humbling. The biggest difference between the two is the speed of the game. Instead of having a few guys who are big and fast, you now are on a field where everyone is big and fast at every position. And thereís a different speed on gameday that is hard to duplicate during practice. Also, playing football in high school was an extracurricular activity, whereas college football is a multi-million dollar industry. The lifestyle of college athletics as a job grows on you pretty quickly, but the adjustment is hard nevertheless."
SCS.com: You really exploded as a sophomore in 2004. You set Texas Tech's single-season record with 13 touchdown receptions and led the Big XII with nearly 100 receiving yards per contest on your way to earning First Team All-Big XII honors at season's end. You topped the season off right in the Holiday Bowl by catching a career-high nine passes, two of them for touchdowns. How were you able to improve so much from your freshman to sophomore season? Was it from experience, hard work, or something totally different?
Hicks: "The improvement I had from my freshman season to my sophomore season was expected to some extent. My first season, I played behind a great receiver in Nehemiah Glover, so I had to make the best of my limited opportunities. But when I became the starter this last season, I figured if I produced a little better with more opportunities, I would have a pretty good year. When I came to Tech, I was an extremely raw receiver in terms of running routes and reading defenses. But with our coaching staff and our strength and conditioning staff pushing me to work hard in the weight room and in the film room during the offseason, I was able to improve throughout the season."
SCS.com: In addition to that all-conference honor from a season ago, you have also begun to receive some national recognition. NationalChamps.net named you a preseason All-American in its recently-released season preview, while Athlon magazine has chosen you as a preseason All-Big XII First Teamer. What does the national recognition mean not only to you but to your team and your school?
Hicks: "The national recognition and attention is great. But my focus is to make sure itís there throughout the season and after the season. Itís great to be acknowledged in the preseason polls, but I think the big thing is to be remembered afterwards. The recognition definitely helps this program and the university grow. With continued success, we can go out and get better players and hopefully we can get to the point where we are one of the programs in contention for a national championship every year. So I welcome the attention as long as itís positive."
SCS.com: Heading into the 2005 season, you are among the NCAA's top ten returning wide receivers in terms of TD receptions and receiving yards from a year ago. With all the publicity and the target now on your back, what have you worked on the most during the offseason, and what goals have you set for yourself this coming season?
Hicks: "With the production I had, I know there will be more attention payed to me. Because of that, Iíve been working closer with our strength and conditioning staff so that I will be stronger when dealing with double teams. This offseason, Iíve watched more film than ever because I know our offense will see a lot of different looks defensively. The coaches have also worked with me to help me use my hands more early in routes and being able to use my body effectively. I think the more I improve on those things, the better off our team will be. The main goal for me is to improve on the numbers I had last year."
SCS.com: Expectations are again high for the 2005 Red Raiders. Tech was ranked #21 in Athlon's preseason poll and has earned similar rankings in various national polls. Along with yourself, the Raiders return top players like RB Taurean Henderson, PR/WR Danny Amendola, and DE Keyunta Dawson. In fact, 16 total starters return from a year ago, eight each from the offense and defense. Do you find it difficult to deal with the high expectations, and what goals is the team looking to achieve in 2005?
Hicks: "I donít see it as being hard for us to deal with expectations. We understand that as this program grows and improves, people will expect more out of us. Because of that, weíre probably better equipped to handle those expectations. We have so many guys with experience returning that we have high expectations for ourselves. Our goals this season will still be the same: win the Big 12 Championship, then win the National Championship. We have the players in place and the right coaches leading us, so now it falls solely on us to get the job done. "
SCS.com: Over the past two seasons, you have had the chance to visit places like New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas A&M, NC State, Mississippi, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Texas. Of the road trips you have made while on campus, which one stands out as the most memorable, and which road game on this year's schedule are you most looking forward to?
Hicks: "I guess the most memorable of my roadtrips was going to Ohio State my true freshman year. Being able to travel to "The Horseshoe" was an unbelievable experience. But to make that trip for my first collegiate game made it even better. Unfortunately, we lost by 30 to the eventual national champions. But all of the road games in the Big XII are exciting because weíre playing in front of some of the best fans in the country. On this yearís schedule, Iím looking forward to going back to Austin to play Texas. With that being so much of a rivalry, the game should be another classic. Iím really looking forward to our trip to Nebraska. This will be my first trip up there, and I know it will be a great sight to see one of the greatest college football stadiums."
SCS.com: While playing on the road can be fun, there's nothing like taking the field in front of the hometown fans. Lubbock's Jones SBC Stadium can seat over 50,000 rowdy Red Raiders and has become one of the toughest places to play in the Big XII. Talk about the support of the Raider faithful as well as one or two of your favorite home game memories.
Hicks: "Jones Stadium is one of the best places to play in the Big XII. We see it as somewhat of a home field advantage playing on our artificial turf in this dry atmosphere. But on top of all of that, our fans might be the craziest in the country. Our student section is always loud and they stay behind us no matter whatís happening on the field. One of my most memorable moments at home was this last season against TCU. We were down 21-0 early in the second quarter, and things were looking pretty bad for us. But we turned it around and scored 56 straight points on the way to winning 70-35. In that, I had my biggest game with 8 receptions for 211 yards. But my first home game will be remembered forever. I didnít have a great game that day against SMU, but being able to play in front of our fans for the first time was an unbelievable experience."
SCS.com: One of the biggest challenges for a major college athlete is juggling the responsibilites of being both a student and a sports star. You were named First Team All-Academic in high school, so it is obvious your school work is very important to you. Why do you feel it is necessary to put such an emphasis on your education, and how difficult is it to juggle all the responsibilities of being a student and a major college football player?
Hicks: "I think there should be a great emphasis on education, especially amongst college athletes, because weíre not going to be athletes forever. And thatís what a lot of athletes believe. Weíve got to realize that we wonít be athletes always. The great majority of us wonít play professionally and will have to have 'regular' jobs. And even for those who do go on to play professionally and are successful, there will still be 30 or 40 years of life afterwards. So we all need to have a degree in something so that weíll be ready to go into the working world. Itís definitely difficult to juggle academics and athletics in college, but many have done it successfully before us. We have so much more support now than others in the past had with more tutors and mentors at our disposal. If the dedication we show with our sport is translated to the classroom, we shouldnít have any problems."
SCS.com: Your head coach Mike Leach is one of the most unique people in college football. Watching him on the sideline, it seems as if he is always calm and under control, never letting his emotions show. In five seasons on campus, his teams have broken over 150 team or individual records, and the exciting offensive numbers have allowed Coach Leach to expand his recruiting outside of Texas and into other parts of the country. What makes Coach Leach so successful, both on the field and on the recruiting trail?
Hicks: "First and foremost, Coach Leach is a genius at what he does with football. The way he has transformed this offense into the top offense the last few years is truly remarkable. He has done it with guys that werenít highly recruited or not the biggest or fastest. He has a great gift in getting the best out of the players that he has. The improvement this program has had and the numbers weíve put up has allowed us to recruit players from all over the country. Coach Leach has a different way of dealing with players than most coaches do. He talks to us and asks us for input on some things, but he also knows when to yell and scream to get our attention. He can talk to anybody about anything, which helps him out when he goes into homes to recruit."
SCS.com: Since we've mentioned the number of records Tech has broken in recent years, let's talk about the exciting style of football the Red Raiders have been playing for the past five years or so. Coach Leach's squad has won the NCAA Passing Title for three straight seasons and the NCAA Total Offense Title for two straight years. With top QBs like Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, and Sonny Cumbie tossing the ball around to talented WRs like yourself, Tech has become famous for routinely scoring 50-plus points, even putting up 70 on two separate occasions a year ago. How fun is it to play for a team that is as wide-open as you guys are on offense, and is that one of the things that attracted you to Lubbock in the first place?
Hicks: "This system is definitely a fun one to play in because itís a quarterback and receiverís dream. They throw and we catch all day, and we donít have to worry about not seeing the ball. We understand that there will be games where we wonít get many catches, but there will be games where we get a lot. There are so many possibilities in this offense. Being a receiver, the idea of all the opportunities I might get attracted me here. I knew we would have some of the best quarterbacks in the country throwing the ball, so I try not to take any of this for granted."
SCS.com: In recent years, the topic of paying college athletes has come up more and more. Some people say that since the players make so much money for their school, their conference, and the NCAA, they should be paid. Others disagree, saying that paying college players is not right because that is what professional sports is for. What is your opinion on this subject?
Hicks: "I think college athletes shouldnít get paid. Like you said, thatís what professional sports are for, and right now weíre just amateurs. We already get a monthly stipend which is more than enough. But most of all, our education is priceless. The money we bring in for the university far outweighs tuition, books, and room and board. But that free education is big for a lot of college athletes who wouldnít even be in college if not for their athletic ability. So donít pay athletes. We make it with what we have, which in some cases is more than most."
SCS.com: What is your favorite memory from your football career, whether it be from high school, college, or some other time?
Hicks: "My favorite memory in my brief football career has to be this last season altogether. It seems as if it was a dream because I didnít expect to go from a second string receiver to first team All-Big XII. I had high hopes and expectations for myself going into the season, but I didnít think things would turn out so great. I feel extremely blessed. And now with me getting all of this attention from it seems surreal. But hopefully I can improve on the great season because I know what to expect now."
SCS.com: Many athletes have role models that guide their athletic and personal lives. Who is one person you look up to on the field and one person you admire off the field?
Hicks: "An athlete I look up to on the field is Jerry Rice. Heís an inspiration to me because heís become the greatest receiver of all time because heís worked for it year in and year out. Coming from Mississippi Valley State, the odds were stacked up against him. Heís never been the fastest guy nor the biggest nor the strongest, but he made what he had work for him. His work ethic is known to be like none other. I look up to him because heís worked for everything heís gotten. Off the field, I admire my dad the most. He played professional baseball, and he knows what it takes to be successful. He had a lot of ups and downs during his playing career and afterwards, but heís always kept going and continuously beat the odds. Like Rice, I admire his work ethic because I know that regardless of your physical talent, you have to work to be among the best."
SCS.com: What are a few things you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Hicks: "Iím like any other college football athlete when it comes to my spare time. I play video games. Whether itís football, basketball, baseball, tennis, or golf, Iím playing it. I only play sports games because thatís what I know best. Other than that, I enjoy a lot of different kinds of music. A lot of guys call me old because I listen to a lot of music before my time - Donny Hathaway, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald. I also sing gospel. So outside of football, itís just video games and music with me."
SCS.com: If a young player was reading this and aspired to become a successful football player, what advice would you give him?
Hicks: "The number one thing I would tell a young player is to work hard. No matter how talented you are, a hard worker is noticed more often, and you can get better. Your opponent is working to beat you, so you need to work even more to beat them. I would also tell them to stay humble. We all deal with this at some point, and we have to make sure our ego doesnít prevent us from getting better. There is always someone out there who is better than you, so you have to stay humble but still be confident. Playing on the collegiate level, you also need to be patient. The majority of guys wonít play right out of high school, so your improvement will take time. With a mix of working hard, being confident yet humble, while showing patience, you can do whatever you want to do athletically."
SCS.com would again like to thank Texas Tech's Jarrett Hicks for taking time to answer our questions. We would like to wish he and the Red Raiders the best of luck throughout the upcoming season.
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