Sunday, September 21, 2014

DHS once had the best RB in the U.S.

November 4, 2010 |

Enterprise columnist


About a hundred years ago I lost $50 on Marc Hicks.


I bet a friend that the former Davis High running back would win the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State.


He didn\’t. I lost. But I was right in my assessment. If you never saw Hicks play, you missed a helluva tailback.


Now, Hicks can be found working as the Davis schools\’ chief of security — and helping coach the Blue Devil running backs.


After rearranging the DHS record book, Hicks went on to play at Cal.


A terrific freshman year turned into a tumultuous, injury-plagued sophomore year and eventually led to a transfer to Ohio State, then a stint in the Canadian Football League before playing with Orlando of the World League of American Football. He was in Florida just long enough to blow out his knee completely.


He stays quiet about his playing days. But I got him talking about his Cal and Ohio State stints.


“I got injured a lot,” understates the 1985 DHS grad, who — only because pressed — went through his litany of hospital visits.


Wherever Hicks went, went the injuries. First a knee, then a broken hand, then ribs and the knee again, then the final knee injury in Florida. Hicks knew but one way to play, all out, always. Unfortunately, it cost him.


Now, as he\’s watched his Blue Devils drop like flies from injuries, he can draw from his college and


pro days, helping to keep his charges focused. Hicks knows what to say to these kids, without beating his chest about past accomplishments. No bragging.


Just in case you didn\’t know, let me do a little chest thumping on behalf of the now 44-year-old Hicks.


As a Blue Devil, Marc Hicks was the most celebrated prep running back in the nation. Recruited hard by Nebraska, Arizona State, Washington, Ohio State and Penn State, Hicks — who was advised by close family friend John Patella — chose California.


“What did I do in high school?” Hicks repeats the question. “I don\’t know the stats. You\’ll have check the records.


Just happen to have \’em right here, Marc.


In 1983, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound back led DHS to a 10-1 record, gaining 1,488 yards and scoring


25 TDs. He was coached by Dave Whitmire. The following fall, the Devils foundered at 2-7-1, but Hicks still managed 1,220 yards rushing and 14 scores. Playing a Wildcat position before there was a Wildcat position, Hicks would take many direct snaps, eventually throwing for more than


500 yards. He also did all the Devil kicking.


When Hicks finally announced he\’d be a Golden Bear, Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno was crestfallen.


“He is the best high school running in the last five years,” Joe Pa told the Los Angeles Times. “We really wanted him.”


Hicks\’ new coach at Cal, Joe Kapp, went a step further in his praise.


“I played against a running back that reminds me a lot of Marc Hicks,” Kapp told United Press International in 1985. “Gale Sayers of Kansas.”


Whoa. Say what? Our Marc Hicks and Gale Sayers? See, he really was that good.


Hicks lost “my best friend,” his dad, when he was a ninth-grader. But with the love and support of brother Larry, sister Darlene and mom Mary, the youngster found the correct path. Hicks also credits Patella — a former UC Davis athlete and local businessman — for his “great guidance.”


Hundreds of recruiting letters, claims of schools offering money to attend — Hicks and the NCAA say the reports were wrong — and the responsibility that came with being the Second Coming weighed heavy on Hicks.


But he got through it all, apparently better for the experience, and now in a great position to mentor our kids.


While I Have You Here: Hicks and wife Martha Bernauer have three offspring


— Coby, 26; Chelsea, 23; and C.K., a DHS freshman football player, who is apparently smarter than his dad. C.K. is a wide receiver.


Hicks\’ great moment at Cal came 25 years ago this Tuesday. Against USC, Hicks scored both touchdowns in a 14-6 upset of the Trojans. His 112 yards rushing prompted one Associated Press report to call him a “future Heisman Trophy candidate.”


And who\’s was his fullback that day? None other than his current boss, Davis schools chief Winfred Roberson.


I guess that\’s when I made my bet. But it\’s OK that I lost. I\’m just happy this whole community won when Marc Hicks decided to return home after The Football Career That Should Have Been.


— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at or (530) 747-8047. Comment on this story at





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