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

By November 4, 2010

Enterprise columnist

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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

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500 yards. He also did all the Devil kicking.

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

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

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

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“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.”

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

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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.”

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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.

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

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

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— 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.

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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.”

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

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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.

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

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www.davisenterprise.com

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