By Idan Vinitsky
June 5 2019
Ask anyone and they would tell you that the National Arena League is a pass oriented league. The math is quite simple actually, for around every 10 passes, you see a rushing attempt.
Then ask again and anyone would tell you that even in a pass oriented league, a quality running back is a must and can be a game changer. Lucky for the Massachusetts Pirates, they have one of the best running backs in the business, Quayvon Hicks.
Stats don’t lie, and midway through the 2019 regular season, Number 17 leads the National Arena League in rushing yards per game and total rushing yards, is ranked second in yards per rush and second among the league’s running backs in rushing touchdowns. The one he had in the Pirates’ home game against New York Streets on June 1 for example, was huge and helped the home team build a double-digit lead just before half time.
That touchdown was a combination of everything Hicks brings to the table, power, smart play and experience: “Nobody tackles him in the open field”, Coach Anthony Payton told the Pirates insider Mick Moninghoff recently. “He is a monster. I have never seen him make a negative move on the field.”
His story begins in the small town of Blackshear, GA, which is best known for being a Prisoners of War camp for over 5,000 Union soldiers during the American Civil War and is located closer to Jacksonville, FL than to Atlanta or Athens. There, he was a standout for the local high school team and he says he wears the number 17 in memory of a high school friend who died “and was like a brother to me.”
In 2012, Hicks committed to the University of Georgia, where he played where every local kid dreams of playing: For the Bulldogs. During his years in Athens, he played mostly as a fullback (and for a while as tight end) and his abilities helped three future NFL running backs, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and New England Patriots player Sony Michel, to shine.
Now, as a running back in the NAL, he uses his skillset from college more than he could ever imagine: “It’s great for me personally, because I am able to utilize the blocking moves I have learned throughout my career”, he says. “I have to be able and ready to block every other play. I am focused on that as much as I am on my running role. I think blocking is just as important as running, especially in a game like this, in arena football. It helps me get better as a player.”
Hicks’s career with the Bulldogs did not have the perfect ending he was probably dreaming of. An ACL injury kept him out of what was supposed to be his final Bowl game (A 24-17 win over Penn State in the 2016 Gator Bowl) and later stopped him from signing with the Tennessee Titans after going undrafted. He recovered, was signed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2017 season and was released just before the next season. After tryouts for one Lions team (Detroit), he joined another one (Columbus), where he became last year’s NAL Offensive Rookie of the Year and a First-Team All-NAL member thanks to a league leading 25.4 rushing years per game and 15 touchdowns.
Now, with the Pirates, he is still getting accustomed to and enjoying the new world of indoor football: “It’s a very different atmosphere”, he admits, referring to his time with the Bulldogs. What is the biggest change? “The distractions. They are much closer to you here, in the arena game. It’s smaller obviously, but when you play in a 90,000 people stadium, there is not much room for you to be accessible for the general public. Here, there is only a wall separating between you and the fans. I love that and encourage the fans to continue to support us.”
Late in the game against the Streets, New York was looking for a comeback and tried an onside kick, which Hicks handled quite easily and with much confidence. He may not have the ball in his hands all the time like some outdoor running backs, but whenever his number is called or he has to make a big play, coach Payton and the team knows that he will deliver. “I am just playing my role, in whatever positions coach puts me in and whatever my responsibilities are, either getting those few yards for a touchdown right before the half or keeping the ball on the onside kick.”
While usually Hicks will be the one doing the blocking, he knows that without his teammate’s protection, he would not have been able to make his big plays, “It’s all team effort. When we execute, we see results.”
Results are certainly seen. The Pirates won back-to-back games in five days against the Streets, giving the team its first winning streak of the season: “Going into our second and last bye week of the season, it’s great for building the team’s confidence”, knows Hicks. “I am excited to see what the rest of the season holds for us, but first, I am going to enjoy the bye week.”
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508)452-MASS (6277), email [email protected] or visit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook at Facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.