Looking at the measurables, it’s not hard to imagine why some of the top college football programs across the country are after Northwest’s Marcus Hicks.
He stands 6 feet 5 inches, weighs 235 pounds, and isn’t done growing. He is rated a four-star defensive end by every major recruiting service, holds eight Division I offers, and has attracted Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame to fly into Wichita to see him.
He can sprint 40 yards in less than 4.7 seconds and has a 35-inch vertical. In the weight room he can hang clean 350 pounds, a school record at Northwest, and squat 440 pounds. His 9-foot-11-inch standing broad jump would have ranked him 17th among 51 defensive linemen at this year’s NFL Combine.
Hicks also just turned 16 years old.
“A lot of these colleges think he is going to be a pass-rushing monster,” said Kelvin Hicks, his father. “Marcus doesn’t even know how good he is yet. Once he figures out who he is and that light comes on, it’s going to be scary.”
But Hicks’ name doesn’t reverberate yet in high school football. He started seven games as a sophomore, recorded 23 tackles and three tackles for losses, while earning honorable-mention honors in the City League.
Right now Hicks’ potential vastly outweighs his production. He wants to show what the hype is about starting Aug. 31 when Northwest opens the season against Bishop Carroll.
“I don’t really have much to say about (the hype),” Hicks said. “They can just see on the field what I’ve got this fall.”
Northwest coach Steve Martin chooses his words carefully when talking about Hicks’ potential. He doesn’t want to place too much pressure on a 16-year-old, but he also finds it hard to understate Hicks’ potential.
“He has a chance to dominate his side of the ball,” Martin said. “I’ll just say that we are very excited about the next two years with Marcus.”
As a sophomore, Hicks was one-dimensional. When the ball was snapped, he would lower his head and bull rush the tackle to try to plow his way to the ball. He was young and still growing into his body.
This summer Hicks has traveled around the Midwest to attend a handful of elite camps. He has been instructed by some of the top defensive line coaches in the country and competed against some of the top prospects.
Hicks has improved his stock at every camp.
“I think what college coaches like most about Marcus is his size and athleticism,” said Randy Withers, a recruiting analyst with Rivals. “Kids his size don’t move like that. Big, strong, athletic guys like Marcus are so hard to find, so his recruitment is going to be super competitive because guys like him are worth their weight in gold.”
The Hicks family isn’t surprised by the recruiting interest.
For the last five years, Hicks has been diligent with his work in the weight room. He rarely watches television and hardly ever eats fast food. Every day is a question of what he can do to improve himself. He is also a three-sport athlete, an accomplished wrestler in the winter and shot put and discus thrower in the spring.
He spends hours outside of football practice working with his father on specialized drills. Kelvin has cherry-picked his favorites from the camps Marcus has attended and now they work as a tandem on hot summer nights in pursuit of becoming a pass-rushing monster. They say Marcus has improved his hands, which along with his quick feet, should allow him to be the complete package this fall instead of just a bull-rusher.
The process has churned out an imposing physical specimen.
“I’ve worked my butt for a lot of years and it’s been a grind, but now it’s starting to pay off,” Marcus said. “It’s not a surprise to me because this is what I worked hard for and I think I deserve it.”
“I’m with him every step of the way and Marcus still finds a way to surprise me all the time,” Kelvin said. “Honestly, I don’t think there is a limit for his capabilities because he is just scratching the surface. It’s more like, ‘What can’t he do?’ ”
But Martin cautions patience for those expecting double-digit sacks this season. That’s not the Northwest system. Hicks won’t be turned loose to freelance every play. He will have responsibilities and his worth to Northwest on the field may not always directly translate to statistics.
Some of the big-name programs have held off on offering Hicks until they see more film — and more production — from him.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and Toledo have already offered scholarships to Hicks, but nothing is official — from either side — until next September when Hicks is a senior and colleges can send a letter of intent. Right now there is no frontrunner, as Hicks wants to wait until the summer after his junior season to begin trimming down his suitors.
“Right now you’re talking largely in hypotheticals and recruiting can be a fickle game,” Withers said. “So if he doesn’t produce, then some of these top-end colleges may shy away. But what Marcus does have on his side are his raw tools and the measurables. Colleges are much more likely to take some risk on guys with the right measurables. But if he puts it all together, then I think you’re really going to see him explode.”
Hicks has NFL dreams, which seem premature for someone who has yet to make a significant impact at the high school level.
But Hicks believes in his work ethic and his dream.
”I just really want the season to start already,” Hicks said. “I know there will be people who come to watch me, but I don’t really see that as pressure. I’m going to come out with the same mindset. Whether or not it’s true, I don’t think anybody can outwork me or is stronger than me or is faster than me. In my mind, I’m ready to destroy them.”