In this undated photo, Dwone Hicks poses with his wife, Alaina, and 3-year-old son, Cannon, at Bleckley County High School in Cochran, Ga. Hicks remains one of the best MTSU football players in school history. (Photo submitted)
Former Middle Tennessee State University running back and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Dwone Hicks has had a long journey to get to where he is in life.
Growing up, he lived in Texas, Germany, New York and Alabama before landing at MTSU in 1999 and becoming one of the top running backs in school history.
His road led him to Georgia, where he coaches high school football, but he will be back to Murfreesboro next month as Hicks will be inducted into the Blue Raider Hall of Fame.
“I was the type that never cared for the accolades,” Hicks said. “Being inducted to any Hall of Fame is a blessing and an honor. I just want to thank everyone who voted for me, the coaches for putting me in a position to make this happen. It does feel good that you have accomplished something in your athletic career.”
Hicks’ athletic career continues today but from the sidelines as an assistant coach at Bleckley County High School in Cochran, Ga., which is 120 miles south of Atlanta.
Currently, he is enjoying the experience of being back on the gridiron, and he preaches the same lessons to today’s players that he learned as a Blue Raider player.
“Coach (Andy) McCollum taught us respect, finish and do your job,” Hicks said. “Those are three phrases that always rang true. Anytime I end up in a coaching situation, I first try to gain kids’ respect, make sure to tell them to finish everything they do, and I try to do my job and tell them to do their job. It was just great coming from a Blue Raider program that taught us so much discipline and how to get the job done.”
Currently, Hicks is the offensive coordinator, head boys track and field coach, and weightlifting coach for the Royals.
“Last year was the best year in all sports in school history, and we have goals of duplicating, if not passing, the marks we set,” Hicks said. “Our goal is simply to squeeze every last bit of juice of talent we can out of our kids. If that results in state championships or regional championships, then that will just be salt on the potato chips.”
Other than his work at the school, Hicks and his wife, Alaina Hicks, who just celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary, started a local fitness program called Royal Fit. In only three weeks of operation, the program has attracted almost 60 members.
“I really just felt that as former athletes we stop playing as if sports are for the young only,” Hicks said. “I feel everyone can play sports at any age, and that we should continue to train to live our life as if we are training for a sport. If we have to sacrifice time to help others, we are willing to do just that.”
As an athlete, Hicks arrived on the Blue Raider campus while the athletic program was breaking new ground.
That year, MTSU played its first season as a member of Division I-A under McCollum. The first two seasons were a struggle for the team, but Hicks was a rising star.
During a game against Louisiana Tech, Hicks rushed for 311 yards. It is a record which still stands today.
“It felt pretty good to be a part of something fresh and brand new,” Hicks said. “It’s always good to put your stamp on something and be one of the pioneers for the MTSU football program.”
His junior year in 2001 was a break-out season for the program and Hicks.
Hicks was part of a Blue Raider offense that piled up yards and points en route to an 8-3 season.
It was the first year for the Blue Raiders in the Sun Belt Conference and the Blue Raider offense averaged 481.4 yards per game, which is also still a school record, and racked up 5,495 yards of total offense, second all-time best in program history, to go along with several other record-breaking performances.
Hicks was named SBC Offensive Player of the Year, ranking second nationally in scoring and 25th in rushing at the end of the seaon.
In 2001, the Blue Raiders tied for the SBC title in their first year in the conference but was denied a bowl berth that year.
Their only conference loss that season was to North Texas, and both teams finished with identical SBC records. However, the Mean Green had the tiebreaker because they beat the Blue Raiders during the regular season and went to the bowl instead even with a 5-6 overall record.
A dozen years later, that denial still stings Hicks and the rest of the Blue Raiders who were on that team.
“I was extremely ticked off, as well as the rest of my teammates,” Hicks said. “A lot of times, good things come out of (something like) that. After that year, the rule was changed where you can not go under .500 and participate in a bowl.”
During his senior season, Hicks dealt with injuries that resulted in him sitting out for several games. That same year, MTSU tried a Hicks4Heisman campaign.
Despite being sidelined for a portion of the season, Hicks still finished as the all-time scoring leader in school history, and had more than 4,300 all-purpose yards, which is second-most in school history. He is third all-time in rushing with more than 3,600 yards on the ground. Hicks also earned a spot in the league’s 30-year anniversary football team.
His NFL career only lasted a season, with stops at Tennessee and Chicago. By then, Hicks admits he was getting tired of playing football.
“I definitely enjoyed the experience, but I wish I was a little bit more mature in trying to stick it out,” Hicks said. “I was getting to the point where I was tired of fighting things ... but it was a great experience. It makes you feel good to have fans out there who care for you and care for football.”
Today, Hicks said he has found his love for football again and hopes to pass that love on to the next generation of gridiron greats.
“I eventually would love to either coach on the collegiate level or become a head high school football coach,” he said. “I would not mind staying here in Georgia, but I would love to return to Tennessee if the opportunity presented itself. I will always be interested in running my own fitness business. Fitness is a strong passion of mine, alongside being an entrepreneur at heart.”