Male Athlete of the Year: Cool under fire – Sophomore turns into three-sport star

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, July 1, 2017
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Heading into the locker room at The Star in Frisco on the third Saturday of the season, Decatur coaches faced more than a 30-21 deficit.

The coaches needed to decide who would go under center after returning all-district quarterback Tyler Ticknor injured his ankle in the final moments of the first half.

Decatur’s Wilson Hicks. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Mulling their options, Mike Fuller and his staff turned to sophomore Wilson Hicks.

“He didn’t take a single rep at quarterback [that week] and played safety. He went to all the quarterback meetings, but we had a different backup in mind,” Fuller said. “We went in at half, talked as a staff and made the choice to go with Wilson. We gave him the play sheet and asked what he felt comfortable with. He scratched through 30 percent of the offense.”

Hicks spurred a Decatur comeback, leading the Eagles to scores on four of five drives, throwing for 152 yards and completing nine of his 11 attempts. Midlothian Heritage hit a late field goal to deny Decatur the victory, but the Eagles got a glimpse of what was to come from Hicks on his way to becoming a three-sport star.

He followed a strong second half against Heritage by throwing for 520 yards and seven touchdowns the following week against Stephenville in his first start. Hicks threw for 2,506 passing yards and 32 touchdowns before transitioning onto the basketball court to average 11.1 points per game. In the spring, the lefty went 7-2 on the mound with a 1.057 ERA to help Decatur to the region final.

“It’s hard to be good at one sport, much less three,” said Decatur basketball coach Drew Coffman. “It speaks volumes to his work ethic.”

Decatur baseball coach Brian Tickell added: “He’s just a competitor. Nothing affects him. He has ice water in his veins.”

The sophomore earned All-Wise spots in football, basketball and football among his many accolades, making him the obvious choice for this year’s Wise County Male Athlete of the Year.

“It’s a huge honor. There’s a lot of great athletes in Wise County that go out and compete. I’m just honored to be one of them,” Hicks said.

“I owe my success to the coaches because of the time and effort they put in with me. They are all positive influences and push me to do my best.”

Throughout the year, Hicks relied on a competitive nature honed in the driveway at the family’s rural home during pick-up basketball games against his older brother Parker.

“They were very competitive. Every time we’d play, he’d come up with some excuse or rule to try to win the game,” Parker recalled. “Sometimes fights would break out.”

But the hard feelings wouldn’t last long.

“We played a lot of basketball on our goal. Whoever didn’t win usually wasn’t happy,” Wilson explained. “A lot of times it ended in a fight, but we’d make up and go out and play again.”

Hicks gave a hint of his talent as a freshman, starting at point guard in basketball and then throwing a gem in a game three of the area round of the baseball playoffs to beat Stephenville.

On the football field in the fall, Hicks started the season at safety and expected to only see limited action in relief at quarterback behind Ticknor.

That all changed at The Star when he was pushed into action.

“I didn’t really know who it was going to be. We had Kooper Joplin who had been working some as quarterback, too,” Hicks said. “So, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be me or him. Once I got the chance, I was glad for the opportunity.”

His poise was quickly evident to his teammates.

“He was comfortable. On his first varsity snap he seemed like he’d done it a million times,” said Decatur junior receiver Dane Fitzgerald.

In his first start, Hicks opened the game with a touchdown pass and quickly proved he was ready to be the full-time starter. With Hicks under center, the Eagles went 5-2 to close the regular season and returned to the playoffs. Hicks threw for multiple touchdowns in seven of his nine starts and topped 200 yards passing four times.

He deflected credit to teammates, including his receivers, offensive line and the team’s upperclassmen.

“Tyler, Payton [McAlister] and all my teammates were there the whole time helping me figure things out as I went,” Hicks said.

Fuller points out that Hicks’ calm demeanor made the offensive machine work.

“He’s a calm, collected kid. He doesn’t get rattled,” Fuller said. “He doesn’t throw the prettiest pass and is not the fastest. But he gets the ball where it needs to be.”

Hicks guided the Eagles to their first playoff win since 2013, throwing for 172 yards and a pair of scores against Stephenville in bi-district. The following week in a shootout with Levelland, Hicks threw for 411 yards and seven scores in the 82-73 loss.

“I still think about that a lot. We got down big early in the first half and came back in the third quarter,” Hicks said. “We couldn’t close it out like we wanted. It was fun, that high-powered offensive game.”

Hicks didn’t get any time to rest. The following week he joined his brother Parker on the basketball court. He played two games before his first practice.

“He was able to pick up things on the fly,” Coffman said. “He’s a heck of a player and talent.”

After handling the ball his freshman year, Coffman moved Hicks to shooting guard and asked him to carry more of the scoring load.

His brother Parker led the team and state in scoring, averaging better than 30 points per game in leading the Eagles to a share of the 9-4A title with a 9-1 record. But in Parker’s final home game, his younger brother nearly showed him up, tossing in a career-best 30 points in the 88-41 win over Krum. Parker barely edged him out, finishing with 35.

“It was a lot of fun. We’re both very competitive,” Wilson said. “We always want to see who scored the most points that game. It was usually him, of course.”

In the Eagles’ three playoff games, Wilson Hicks averaged 17.3 points per game. Playing defending state champion Dallas Lincoln in the region quarterfinal, he hit a soft jumper with nine seconds left to tie the game and force overtime. Lincoln went on to win the game in the extra period.

The end did not spoil the season for him and the Hicks family.

“That was special with my dad [Larry] being a coach and my brother there,” Wilson Hicks said. “We played the defending state champions in the third round of the playoffs, went to overtime and had a chance to win. It was a fun run, and no one wanted it to end.”

His year was far from over as he moved over to the baseball diamond to become the Eagles’ No. 2 starter on the mound and to bat in the middle of the lineup.

Against rival Bridgeport in the first round of district, Hicks struck out 13 while tossing a no-hitter over six innings.

“I enjoyed that, especially against a rival like that. I always want to go out and compete my best against a rival, whether it’s football, basketball or baseball,” he said.

It wouldn’t be his last big start. Hicks won his three starts in the playoffs, including recording wins in elimination games against Melissa and Sanger.

“Playoffs elimination games are win or go home, and I don’t want to go home,” Hicks said. “I know I have to come out and give my team the best chance to win the game.”

Hicks finished the year with 55 strikeouts in 53 innings and allowed only eight earned runs. He batted .273 with an on-base plus slugging percentage of .803.

Hicks set a high bar for himself during his sophomore year in which he made it to at least the second round of the postseason in all three sports. But he’s far from satisfied as he starts his junior year.

“I want to follow it up with an even better one. I haven’t won a state championship yet. There’s always that,” he said. “I want to be the best leader I can be for the younger guys coming and just win.”

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