Les Hicks encountered a life-altering experience and a date with destiny when the legendary Jack Lengyel, the head coach of Marshall University, recruited him. Lengyel told Hicks, "Other schools may want you, but we need you."
Hicks joined an eclectic group of athletes recruited from other sports, along with freshmen players and a host of walk-ons. This team took on the emotionally staggering task of reestablishing football at the school. Their task was not so much to win championships but simply to play competitively and position the program for future success.
After Marshall football weathered lean years, they ascended to elite status in Division I-AA, winning national championships in 1992 and 1996 along with eight conference titles. In 1997, the Thundering Herd returned to Division I-A, college football's highest classification. A member of the Mid-American Conference, it made eight bowl appearances from 1997 to 2009, winning six of the games. During the 1990s, Marshall won 114 games and lost 25. Marshall proudly holds the distinction of being the winningest football program throughout the '90s over the perennial powerhouse, Florida State.
During his time at Marshall and in the following years, Hicks faced his share of adversity. Hicks's date with destiny unraveled when he suffered a partially torn deltoid. His playing time and grades decreased as his frustration escalated. Hicks's twist of fate took him to the brink of suicide.
Nick Diniaco, a trusted friend, unknowingly convinced Hicks that he had many reasons to live. Hicks emerged from his state of depression and learned not to complain about anything. He concluded that millions would have loved to have had the good and the bad of his life, and he started treating each day as if it were his last. He committed the rest of his football career and life playing and living for one of the crash victims, Scottie Reese.
Hicks nearly died after passing out during a weight-training session in college due to viral hepatitis. He survived a near-fatal blood clot after a knee scope in 1992. He was almost killed in a car crash in 2005, and later that year he suffered a ruptured appendix with an ensuing, unbearable fissure. Once again, complications of his ruptured appendix made him ponder suicide again, but Hicks decided against suicide; he did not want to put an additional burden on his family and his faith in God.
In 2005, Marshall University named Hicks as one of its "125 Most Impactful Black Athletes," and Hicks was also honored at his high school in Steubenville, Ohio. where his family had been jeered because of their impoverished condition. Forty-two years later, he was cheered while tossing the coin and serving as the honorary captain at his high school's homecoming game.
If you root for the underdog, this book will reveal how the Marshall football program and Hicks's life rose from ashes to glory, both achieving levels of success neither had imagined possible.
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