I have very few pet peeves. Basically, I’m a pretty laid back individual.
But one thing that really gets by blood boiling on an annual basis centers around the WCHS-TV/FOX 11 North-South All-Star Football Classic. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game. I think it’s one of the best sporting events of the year in West Virginia. I’ve seen all but five of the games since it started in 1976.
The part that irks me about the Classic are the constant no-shows of players, along with camp defectors.
Each year, it seems, there are those who were chosen to play that wait until the last minute to inform the coaches and game organizers they will not be participating. This year the South got hit with a player (or non-player, I guess you could say) pulling that stunt.
The players report to West Virginia State University in Institute on Sunday each year to begin a week-long training camp. It’s the chance of a lifetime for 74 young men (37 on each team). But when someone fails to give those in charge notice he’s not coming, not only does it hurt that particular team but it also robs another individual from around the state the opportunity to be a part of this great experience.
Besides the no-shows, there are those who decide during camp that they want to leave. The North lost a player at mid-week this year. I mean within two days the game was going to be played and the week would have been over. I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.
Game organizers work diligently to make it a week the players will forever cherish. After two practices each day, the players are treated to swimming, bowling, the movies, a West Virginia Power baseball game and the North-South Basketball Classic during the evening hours. Besides three square meals a day at the State cafeteria (which is quite good), they also feasted last week on two buffets at the Nitro Moose Lodge, enjoyed a late-night snack at area Wendy’s restaurants and were invited to a luncheon on Friday at the Governor’s mansion.
I write of the issues of players not showing up and disappearing from camp because of the situation surrounding Ripley’s David Hicks. The North-South Classic was going to be the last time Hicks would put on his Ripley Viking helmet. He was one of the players chosen to the original North roster.
Hicks, a Class AAA First Team All-State football player and three-time state wrestling champion, was so looking forward to playing in the Classic. It had long been a goal of his to compete among the state’s best.
But just a few short weeks before Hicks was to report to training camp in Institute, his life as an athlete took a dramatic turn. On the day after he was recognized as an All-State football player at the West Virginia Sports Writers Association Victory Awards Dinner in Parkersburg, Hicks became very ill at school.
Page 2 of 3 - “I started getting really dizzy,” said Hicks, Ripley High’s Athlete of the Year for 2012. “My vision was blurred and I was seeing spots. I just didn’t feel well.”
After being taken to Jackson General Hospital, Hicks was immediately rushed to Morgantown’s Ruby Memorial. After a battery of tests, it was discovered that Hicks was suffering from AVM (Arteriovenous malformation). AVM is an abnormal connection between veins and arteries.
Since the diagnosis, Hicks has had one surgery with two more to go. His sudden medical condition immediately eliminated him from competing in the North-South.
“It was hard not to be out there,” said Hicks, the day after the N-S game (won by the South in overtime, 36-28). “It was something I had wanted to be a part of since my freshman year.”
While he didn’t get to actually play for the North, Hicks was a part of the Classic. Director Bob Mullett and assistant director Mark Montgomery – two of the greatest people on earth – saw to it by not only presenting Hicks with his No. 33 game jersey on Saturday, but making him an honorary captain for the blue-clad North.
Sure, it wasn’t exactly what Hicks had envisioned a few short months ago when he was first selected to the game of his dreams, but he was touched by the gesture of not only Mullett and Montgomery but the entire North coaching staff, headed up by Tony Filberto. “It meant a great amount to me that they did that,” said Hicks, who was out on the field for the opening coin toss, a meeting with officials before the second half kickoff and again prior to the overtime session.
Hicks is planning to attend Marshall University and major in mechanical engineering with a possible minor in political science. He dreams of one day returning to the football field.
“The doctors are hoping to get me back to doing the things I’ve always done,” said Hicks, who will be away from football for at least a year to see where things stand.
Last week should have been one to remember in the young life of David Hicks. It didn’t turn out that way, but he’s also been looking on the bright side of his situation being detected when it was.
“They don’t find this very often unless a person’s been in an accident and they do a cat-scan,” he said.
Regardless of what happens in his future as an athlete, David Hicks will long be remembered as a rock-solid competitor. In addition to being a great athlete, he was an outstanding student. Hicks, an Eagle Scout, has been a great role model to many, including his younger brother Daryl.
The no-shows and those leaving camp early at the North-South Classic display a true sign of selfishness and immaturity. It’s amazing the difference between some kids and others when it comes to the way they handle things.
Page 3 of 3 - David Hicks has always been the kind of person who has appreciated all the good that’s come his way as an athlete. He was always respectful of his coaches and never took anything for granted. Hicks has handled his dilemma with amazing courage, while realizing just how special it is to live where he does.
“Everyone’s been real supportive,” he said.
It’s a shame he didn’t get to play in Saturday night’s game and also soak up the entire North-South week. But he was there to represent Ripley High one last time, lending support to his North squad.
David Hicks is a quality young man and a true all-star.