By Tony Burns
Whoever told El Dorado's Alex Hicks he was too short to play quarterback, keep telling him that. The 5-foot-7 junior has learned to turn the doubt into fuel, which has propelled the Wildcats to 81 points in the first two games.
"I don't think I could be more pleased with how he's done," said El Dorado coach Scott Reed. "He played really well at Conway. I'm continuing to see progress."
Through two games, Hicks has completed 19-of-35 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns. He's rushed for 277 yards and four touchdowns on 28 attempts for the 1-1 Wildcats, who host Cabot on Friday.
"There's room for improvement," Hicks said. "I'm getting better every day at practice. Coach Reed pushes me a lot."
Hicks, who played running back and led the team in rushing as a sophomore, has also been pushed by the naysayers. In the offseason, a few Wildcat fans were skeptical on if he could make the transition from running back to quarterback.
"Too short. He can't see over the line. He runs too much," Hicks said of the criticism. "But, I'm trying to prove them wrong. I go hard every day at practice. I give it all I've got, not only for me, not to make a statement, just because it's what's best for the team."
Hicks ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 175 yards and four scores in the season-opening 48-41 loss at Conway. It was quite the performance, especially after a long summer of second guessing.
"I wanted to give up at one point. During the summertime I was hearing a lot about it. I wanted to change positions so I could stop hearing it," he said. "But, it's best for the team for me to stay at quarterback so I try to keep making progress. I take it out of my head and just take it all on the field."
As far as silencing his critics, Hicks said, "I'm not even worried about it no more. I just go and do what I do. Do what the coach is telling me to do. Be calm and give my team a win."
Reed, whose youngest son Lucas won a state title at El Dorado and played quarterback at Ouachita Baptist University, at about 5-foot-7, said height has never been a consideration for the position.
"I've had some quarterbacks that weren't real tall. And, some that were tall. It matters to who it is," said Reed. "The ones that are good, they don't even think about that. They think about taking you apart every play. I'm sure people have said that to him. But, there's never been an issue here with me."
"If you can play, you can play. That's all there is to it."
Hicks has shown the tools to be a dual-threat QB. He ran over a defender at the goalline in the benefit game against Nashville. In Friday night's 46-20 win over Camden Fairview, he deftly hid the ball behind his back after a double-reverse and then threw a dart to Devunte Kidd for a 46-yard touchdown. The play was nullified by an ineligible receiver downfield, but it showed an advanced level of skill and deception.
"I think he's more accurate as a passer. He's always been very competitive. I think he's much safer with the ball. I think he's worked hard at that, at making good decisions. Through two games he's been good with his decision making in the passing game," said Reed. "I saw it coming early in the summer. He was a little frustrated trying to do all the things in the passing game. His M.O. was to run. Since the camp, he's really improved, become more complete, which is good to see. Another thing is, he's flat fearless. He doesn't ever want to give up on a play. That helps your team have that kind of mentality, too."
Hicks, himself, has noticed an improvement in his overall play.
"My eyes, my decision making, a lot of times I would look and I'd see somebody coming and I'd take off running. I'd see something and I'd hesitate. Now, I'm just like, play ball. I go with my first instinct and make sure it's consistent," he said. "There's still room for improvement. Everything is going to get better. It's the third week. We're only going to get better with practice."
His coach agreed.
"I think he's just going to continue to get better," said Reed. "I think he's getting more and more comfortable with what we're doing. We've changed how we play offense. There's a lot more motion, more people touching the ball, more decisions to make at the snap or later. Through two games, the production is pretty good offensively. I think we'll continue to get better and better."
That's good news for the Wildcats and for El Dorado football fans, even those who had their doubts about the size of their quarterback going into the season. As for Hicks, he's no longer focused on proving people wrong. He's trying to win football games.
"I just want to get to state. I don't have any personal goals. It's just a team goal. I just want to get to state. That's all I need. That's all I want," he said.
"I want to thank Coach Reed because a lot of days I came into his office and said, 'Can I change positions? Can you play this person here?' I was doubting myself because other people were doubting me. But, I appreciate Coach Reed a lot. Even off the field, in class, he'll give me all the help I need. Not only Coach Reed, all the coaching staff. They help me a lot."