Hicks was once in their situation and even spent his rookie season with the Chicago Bears on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Six years later, with 55 games played and five starts to his resume – and at the age of 30 – Hicks is still plugging away in the NFL.
"I just knew that if I kept working hard that the light in the tunnel would shine. I just kept working hard and knew that I was dedicated. I just knew in my heart that opportunity would come," said Hicks, who said it took determination to stick with it after his ACL tear as a rookie. "Other people would maybe be like, ‘Oh, my career is over.' But me, the type of person I am, I'm a hard worker and I'm dedicated and I knew in my mind that I would make it."
Hicks had relatively good success when he was filling in for an injured Frank Gore with five starts in 2004 and 2005. He had more than 300 yards in each of those seasons in limited duty and averaged 5.2 yards on 59 carries in 2005. "Like the coaches say, when a guy goes down you've got to be the man to step up and take care of your business. It's just being prepared mentally and knowing what to do when something like that happens," Hicks said.
But Hicks has stuck in the league because of his ability to accept a role and contribute solidly on special teams. After his rookie season on injured reserve, he spent the next two seasons trying to prove himself in the now-defunct NFL Europe and working his way up from the practice squad of the San Francisco 49ers.
This offseason was really his first move as a free agent and he chose the Vikings.
"Just coming in here, I knew that I could definitely help out on the special teams side in all phases and hopefully help out on offense also," he said.
Hicks holds the top two spots in 49ers history for kickoff return yards. In 2006, he had 1,428 yards. In 2007, he topped that with 1,502 yards.
"Maurice is doing a good job. You were able to see him in that first preseason game come in (and) have a big run for us," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "(He) broke a couple of tackles. I know he is a big-time special teams player for us and he'll be a third-down-style back and a little bit of a changeup for us."
While Hicks would like to show he can be counted on as more than a third-down back, he knows his role behind Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor.
"You always want to prove that you can be one of those guys, but I've got two great backs in front of me and it's just a great opportunity to be a part of that," Hicks said. "I just saw some great things out of this organization and team. I just saw they were on the uprise and had some great things to come."
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON NOTES
"It's my first experience down there, but I can tell you some of the things I was worried about when I go down there. The first thing is, you have to have great communication because you can't always see everything from down there. You can't see, necessarily, if the ball goes down to the other end, you can't tell what hash you're on. You can't tell exactly what yard line, exactly the distance, so I have to get that information quickly and the guys in the box did great with that," Bevell said. "Then, just for me, I want to make sure you don't get caught up in the emotion of the game. Sometimes that can happen, whereas in the box it's a sterile environment. I know it's a preseason game, but still there's great emotion down there and I wanted to make sure that you can keep that in check."
Bevell is expected to remain on the sideline throughout the preseason and a decision will be made later this month about his positioning during the regular season.