In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks:
Roob: Tell me about growing up just north of Cincinnati. I guess one of your high school coaches was Carlton Gray, a guy who played in the league and a guy whose - do you know who his grandfather was?
Hicks: Uh, wasn't he a musician. No, he was the - the Black Panthers president?
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Roob: Benjamin Hooks. He was an activist.
Roob: NAACP, yeah. So, thanks for watching - no. What was it like having a professional, a former NFL guy -he was a cornerback - but to have a guy like that at a young age help shape your career.
Hicks: He really influenced the way I view the game. He was really touted as a guy who was smart and understood coverages and understood defense as a whole. Having the ability to be able to get up on the board with him - he would always get us up on the board - things that guys in the league, guys in college - prepping you for those stages. And to have somebody be able to that for me for me at that early of a stage just really, really helped me grow and mature and be ready for the next steps.
Roob: He was known as a very cerebral player and I guess you are too. Is that a side of your game that you always took a lot of pride in? The preparation, knowing what to expect, knowing what to look for?
Hicks: Yeah, yeah. And it's grown over the years, that's for sure. As my knowledge of the game and really for offenses have increased but it's - I've always taken a lot of pride in it and I continue to grow, continue to learn. There's guys that I'm always looking at trying to pick pieces of their game, constantly asking the offense questions.
Roob: Rookie year you come in, make a lot of plays, then get hurt in that Dallas game. Last year, you play 16 games. How big was it to play all year? You know, people like to tag players and they tag you as injury-prone. You got a little banged up at Texas but you put together 16 games last year and stayed healthy all year. How big was that?
Hicks: It's huge for me. Confidence wise, first of all. And then being able to prove to my teammates that this is what I'm doing. I'm going to be out there on the field. I'm taking this super serious, and I put a premium on my health in making sure I was doing everything throughout the year, whether it was nutrition, whether it was recovery, to make sure my body was in tip-top shape. I think that's part of the maturation of becoming a pro. You learn what works for you, you learn your body, you understand what doesn't work for you and how your body responds to certain things. Just a part of the process and obviously I've made that jump.
Roob: The football seems to find you. I don't know if you know the stat, but you're the first linebacker with 11 takeaways in your first 24 games since Jack Hamm - Hall of Famer who played for the Steelers in the '70s - seven picks and four fumbles. How much of that is just being prepared and knowing what to expect and how much of it is the way the ball bounces, how much of it is a combination of everything, and then the numbers are crazy,
Hicks: I think it is, I think it's a combination of everything. You can't put your finger on one thing and say that's it. I take a lot of pride in my preparation so that I am in the right spot when the plays come. I think having the ability to actually finish the play - a lot of times, guys get the opportunity to make the plays and they don't catch the ball or they don't scoop the ball the right way or whatever it may be. But I've always, ever since I was young, if the ball touches my hands, it should be mine. With that frame of mind, I take that into practice and I've always prepared myself for that.
Roob: Year 3 now. What do you want to focus on as far as getting better? I know a lot of guys pick one thing they want to get better at.
Hicks: For me, it'd be the run game. Everybody's talking about the pass game, pass game, pass game, but as a linebacker, you have to be able to play the run. I think I can - I know I can - it's just a matter of proving that, being physical at the point of attack and making my presence felt.
Roob: Pro Bowls have eluded you so far, unfairly. I think you deserved to go last year. Do you think about that kind of stuff? Or are your goals mainly team goals?
Hicks: It's more important as a team, and everything will fall in place as we play well. As long as we're doing the things we need to do in here and out here, I think on Sundays everything will work out the way it's supposed to.
Roob: How do you like the way this defense has performed so far in camp?
Hicks: I like where we're at. I think that we've got some places to go. We have the potential to be very good.
Roob: I'd be surprised if this is not a top-10 defense.
Hicks: I would too. That's the expectation. The expectation is to be top-five.
Roob: Let's go top-three.
Hicks: Let's go top-one.
Roob: Not number one. Hasn't happened since '91 here.
Hicks: We're not comparing ourselves to anybody else. It's a matter of excellence for us, and setting a standard for ourselves all the way to the top, as high as we can push it and constantly push ourselves to get better. Focusing on everybody else, all that is a distraction. As long as we're making sure that everything in-house is correct, everything, again, will fall into place.