While the Bears have missed defensive tackle Akiem Hicks since he was placed on injured reserve last month, Hicks has continued to be a presence in the Chicago community.
Monday afternoon, he made an appearance at the Boys and Girls Valentine Club in the south side neighborhood of Bridgeport. Hicks helped served dinner and mingled with young fans.
For Hicks, interacting with children is an integral part of his job description.
“It’s getting a chance to give back and also an area that I feel that I’m strong in,” said Hicks. “I love working with kids. It’s really a positive experience for myself and them.”
The towering Hicks, listed at 6-4 and 352 pounds, can make an impression on children just by standing next to them.
“They like to play the ‘guess the height’ game,” said Hicks. “They’re always off a few inches. For an athlete, height is really important, so I always have to keep them straight.”
Hicks strives to wield his celebrity in positive ways, remembering his life as a fan.
“I didn’t meet my first NFL football player until I was 19 years old,” said Hicks, “and it was a dream of mine since I was 12. For me, it’s a positive experience to be able to show them what a football player might look like, how they might act, and give them someone to look up to.”
Now a few days shy of his 30th birthday, Hicks remembers the decade-old experience of meeting Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, his favorite player, and hopes to pay that experience forward.
Touching on on-field matters, Hicks praised teammate Nick Williams, who he calls a close friend. Williams has seen increased playing time in Hicks’ absence and currently leads the team with six sacks.
Hicks will be eligible to return to the active roster in Week 15 but did not elaborate on his recovery or the timetable for his return.
“I have no projections,” said Hicks. “I just want to be healthy and be able to contribute to this football team.”