A stud coming out of high school, senior linebacker Jordan Hicks faced new, defining challenges at Texas.
In addition to missing 19 games because of injuries over the last two seasons, Hicks was accused of sexual assault while staying at a hotel in San Antonio for the 2012 Alamo Bowl.
After an investigation, no charges were filed, but the slew of misfortunes that have plagued Hicks’ college career thus far have left those closest to him feeling sorry for the former top-five recruit.
“It was tough because, me and Jordan, we’ve been good friends since I’ve been here,” said senior cornerback Quandre Diggs, who has started alongside Hicks since arriving at Texas in 2011. “Just him going through those things, a guy that loves to compete and go out and just play the game the way he does, it’s hard to see somebody, one of your brothers go out like that.”
But just four games into his final season in burnt orange, Hicks has left no reason for anyone to feel sympathetic. The 6-foot-1, 234-pound linebacker has been a force for the Longhorn defense this year, making big plays in run and pass defense.
Hicks, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, is third in the Big 12 in terms of tackles with a team-high 39, and is also tied for the team lead in interceptions (two) and pass breakups (three). His six tackles for loss are second among Longhorns, trailing only junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown’s.
“He is unbelievable,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “He’s so critical. I can look to him because he’s going to get the defense lined up, and he’s making plays for us. He’s playing so hard.“
Now in his fifth year in Austin, Hicks is improving week after week, with his best performance of the season coming last weekend on the road against Kansas.
Hicks led Texas with 15 tackles against Kansas, including one tackle for loss, and came up with a key interception in the second half to lead the Longhorns to their first shutout as the visiting team since 2005. The performance earned him Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career.
“It meant a lot,” Hicks said. “It’s a great honor, but there’s a lot of good football players in this conference, so to be recognized for my play this past week is definitely an honor.”
The numbers are obvious, but what doesn’t show up on the stat sheet may be Hicks’ greatest strength. As the leader of the Longhorn defense, Hicks has done more than just fill up the box score this season.
“He’s leading by example,” senior safety Mykkele Thompson said. “He’s making plays out there, and also he’s a vocal leader. He’s the heart and soul of the defense. That’s something that we all look up to, and we respect that.”
Of course, Hicks’ chance at avoiding another major injury is still a big concern. He got off to solid starts in 2012 and 2013, too, but failed to stay healthy past September.
“You just pray each and every day that he can stay healthy and just continue to help us grind throughout the season,” Diggs said.