NFL legend Dwight Hicks returns to Pennsauken
By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
Dwight Hicks thought he was going to be a first-round draft pick out of the University of Michigan.
"I went in the sixth round," Hicks said.
Hicks thought he would make an instant impact and quickly develop into an All-Pro player in the NFL.
"I was cut, not once but twice," Hicks said.
Hicks, the former San Francisco 49ers star defensive back, returned to Pennsauken High School on Friday.
Hicks and former Pennsauken stars John Taylor and Billy Griggs were back at their old high school to present gold footballs to their alma mater as part of the NFL's Super Bowl 50 celebration.
Hicks spoke with the school's spring athletes during an afternoon session in the gymnasium.
"I played in this gym," the 60-year-old Hicks said. "I played on that football field. I started out in PYAA (Pennsauken Youth Athletic Association.
"I am one of you. When I see you, I see myself."
Hicks highlighted his professional career, which included making four Pro Bowls and playing for two Super Bowl champions.
An instinctive and intelligent free safety, Hicks was regarded in San Francisco as one of the cornerstones of the early years of the 49ers' dynasty.
But Hicks told the students that he encountered failure before success.
"I almost gave it up," Hicks said, recalling that he was cut by the Lions and the Eagles and played briefly in the Canadian Football League before joining the 49ers. "My first year in San Francisco (1979), we were 2-14. Next year, 6-10. Next year, 16-3 and Super Bowl champions.
"Me, a little guy from Pennsauken, just like you."
Hicks' speech made an impact on Pennsauken senior Marquan Jones, a track star who has signed with Rider University.
"Seeing somebody from Pennsauken who made it that big, it motivates you," Jones said. "He talked about dreams. That's what my dad always says, 'Follow your dream.'"
Hicks graduated from Pennsauken in 1974. He said he went to Michigan because he used to watch the Rose Bowl on television on New Year's Day and hear the announcers call it "The granddaddy of them all."
"I wanted to be part of that," Hicks said. "When I was there, we played in the Rose Bowl twice. And we lost twice."
Hicks, who has been an actor in television and feature films for the last 20 years, travelled from the Los Angeles area to be part of the event at Pennsauken.
Hicks wore jeans and a red 49ers museum jacket. He spoke to the students for around 45 minutes.
"If I can do it, anybody in here can do it," Hicks said. "When you dream, dream large. Dream extra large.
"The future president of the United States could be sitting right here, amongst you."
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