Not many players have experienced what Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks did this offseason in their playing careers.
Hicks, a key component of Arizona's defense who started all 16 games in 2020 and tied for the team lead in tackles, watched the franchise draft his replacement, Zaven Collins. He had played 100% of the snaps in 2019 and 92% last season.
That sort of thing happens all the time in a league that strives to get young and better simultaneously, so maybe Hicks wouldn't have been extremely shocked especially after agreeing to accept a paycut before the draft.
It would come as a surprise to any player, however, that their freshly drafted heir apparent would assume starting duties from Day 1, despite never having stepped on an NFL field.
The situation led Hicks to request a trade from the team, a fact that he confirmed to the media earlier this year. The story line followed Hicks and Collins through the offseason and training camp, especially after Hicks did not participate in OTAs and minicamp.
However through Arizona's 2-0 start, Hicks has been predominantly featured in the Cardinals' game plan.
Hicks is one of four players on the roster to have 10 or more tackles and one of seven to have a pass defended. He has played 96% of the defensive snaps for the Cardinals, trailing only safety Budda Baker by two plays.
Fellow linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins have played 86% and 38% of the snaps, respectively.
"I play this game to play it, right? I want to play, I want to be out there. You know, I honestly had no clue what was going to happen coming into training camp," Hicks said during his postgame press conference on Sunday. "So, the fact that I went to training camp, to play well and earn the respect of the team, all you want is respect in this league. And that's what I play for.
"I told you guys earlier that I have faith in the grand scheme of things. And that's how I approach every day as a leader, as somebody that could teach the young guys. I've played a lot of football in this league. I've accomplished quite a bit in terms of winning and putting things out there on the field. So, I know I have a lot to bring to the table. I just try to play as good of football as I could day in and day out and let the chips fall where they may."
Hicks said in some respects, it felt like he was "getting screwed over" during training camp.
But, he wanted to set an example for everybody around him, including his teammates who call him dad.
"I have faith. I've played this game long enough and understand that things happen along the way," Hicks said. "I've got two kids, right, two boys. And when I look back on the way I handled this, I'm gonna be proud. Because not once did I waver in my faith, my approach to the game and my approach to my teammates. At the end of the day, I made the most of the opportunity."
The Cardinals, despite drafting Collins and insisting through training camp that he would start from Day 1, also appear to have faith in Hicks' abilities in the early goings of the season. His teammates voted him one of four captains on defense.
Hicks has played well through the two games played, and figures to have an important place in the lineup moving forward as Collins still looks to settle himself.
For a player who was placed in an unfavorable situation, Hicks' hard work and mindset allowed him to push through into where he is currently: A starting linebacker role on an undefeated team, who appears hungry for more.