Nicks Back And Better Than Ever

CHARLOTTE --- After playing with a nagging hip pointer the first two games of the season, a game off and a bye week freshened up Hakeem Nicks enough to have a career-day during Charlotte (N.C.) Independence's 49-7 defeat of Charlotte Vance.

"I feel like I played good coming off my injury," said Nicks. "The last few weeks I've really been hampered by my injury.

"But really, I couldn't have done it without my team. The line did a lot – gave the quarterback time to get it to me."

Nicks, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound wide receiver, sustained his injury during the preseason, but attempted to ride it out until his head football coach, Tom Knotts, benched him for the third game.

"I tried to play through it," said Nicks. "But then it started to aggravate me too much, so Coach Knotts yanked me and said ‘We'll need you down the line.'"

Nicks more than doubled his senior season's statistics Friday night when he caught six passes for 191 yards, including two for touchdowns.

With the injury behind him, Nicks can now focus on being Independence's go-to guy – a title that, in the past, has been held by two of the best receivers to come out of the state: Muhamed Massaquoi and Mario Raley, both now at Georgia.

"It's not a lot of pressure like everybody thinks it is," said Nicks. "Most people think it's a lot of pressure because I have big shoes to fill. But I don't think of it like that. I think of it like, it's just another game and go in and play."

Another thing Nicks doesn't think about is his recruitment, which ended with his summer committed to North Carolina.

"I pretty much have my mind set-up – as of right now," said Nicks. "Carolina is showing me a lot of interest. I feel like I can go up there and play and not red shirt."

Nicks, who is being recruited for wide receiver by the Tar Heels, says he is in constant contact with the staff and even receives at least one handwritten letter from each coach every week.

As a junior, Nicks played tight end mostly for Independence as they captured their fifth NCHSAA 4A State Title in as many years. Nationally ranked again, the Patriots are striving for a sixth championship with a healthy Nicks leading the way.

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