DALLAS -- In hindsight, Jordan Hicks knows he probably should have stopped.
A cold night in Ames, Iowa, and a tight turn on the turf had conspired to stretch his hamstring beyond its limits. He could no longer cut, didn't have the burst he once had and was closer to 50 percent than 100.
“I could've taken a few games off probably,” the Texas linebacker said Tuesday at Big 12 media days. “But it was my decision. I felt I could play through it.”
Hicks played in all 13 games and finished with 65 tackles. But, despite the durability and the stats, Hicks, even by his own admission, didn't play well. It was clear Hicks, the top linebacker recruit in the nation in 2010, had lost a step.
Now, year a later, he is being asked to step up.
“He can be a real leader,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Hicks will have to be. Texas, which is deep at every other position on the field, lacks depth and substantial experience at linebacker. Demarco Cobbs has played some. Steve Edmonds is a sophomore. Hicks, just a junior, is it. And he knows it. Maybe more importantly, though, Hicks embraces it.
“It comes natural,” he said. “It is not something that is forced on me. It comes natural and I'm 100 percent OK with that. I love that role.”
“He's ready,” added cornerback Carrington Byndom. “You can see it.”
What no one will be able to see is just how ready Hicks and the rest of the Texas defense is, not at least until the Longhorns travel to Oklahoma State in the fourth week of the season. The prior games are essentially gimmes. But the Cowboys, despite having a freshman quarterback, could present problems to any defense, particularly one that is not sound at linebacker.
That responsibility will fall onto Hicks' shoulders. Brown is confident those shoulders are wide enough to handle the load.
“He is smart,” Brown said. “He gets it. He is confident. He is stronger. You can tell that by looking at him. And they all can see him make athletic play after athletic play.”
Those plays are what Texas has been waiting for since Hicks was thrust onto the field against Nebraska in 2010. Thrown into the fire against Taylor Martinez and the Huskers, Hicks flourished with 11 tackles.
“All the hype going into that game, it was pretty incredible,” Hicks said. “I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off but making plays doing it.”
Hicks never had more than two tackles in a game the rest of the season. In 2011, he also started strong with 11 tackles against BYU, but the hamstring injury came two games later on the first third down of the second half.
“It was something I probably needed to go through,” Hicks said. “I'm able to look back on that year and say I wasn't able to do everything but I was able to learn.”
Now the time has come for Hicks to show everyone just what he learned.