From CIS to starting New Orleans Saint?

Former CIS all-Canadian Akiem Hicks is embarking on an exciting time in his gridiron career in the professional ranks.

The 6’5, 330 pound defensive end is on the verge of cracking the starting lineup for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.

With three weeks of evaluation remaining, he would be the hands on favourite to gain a starting position as a left defensive end in Saints Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan’s system (three lineman, four linebackers).  Last year as a rookie on the Saints reserve defense, he played a 4 lineman, three linebacker system.

When the Saints opened training camp, it was uncertain whether Hicks would actually have an opportunity for a starting role.  The Saints signed Kenyon Coleman from the Dallas Cowboys (he played under Ryan for the past two seasons under the 3-4 system).

However, injuries have changed circumstances.  Coleman, who is an 11 year veteran of the NFL tore a pectoral muscle which could prematurely end his season, while Tom Johnson (third year veteran) sustained a hip injury and has been unable to practice with the team for the past week.

Yesterday, Hicks made a strong case for himself while participating in  the Saints 11-on-11 drills  as he would have registered a sack against quarterback Drew Brees if contact was allowed with the pivot. Subsequent to that, during a two minute drill, Hicks batted down a Brees pass and then beautifully read a screen pass to running back Darren Sproles.

Hicks, who is a native of Sacramento, California was drafted in the third round (89th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Saints played for the CIS team, the Regina Rams for two seasons (2010,2011).  He was initially recruited to play college football for NCAA team Louisiana State University Tigers.  However, he was ineligible to play in the United States due to an NCAA violation which an assistant coach provided financial help. Therefore he came north of the border to suit up for the Rams and enjoyed a successful career and became a top defensive end in the CIS.

Photo credit:  New Orleans Saints Football Website

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