I had the good fortune of attending the Colonials’ Fan Club Kickoff on June 22nd, and spoke with RB Andre Dixon and OL Mike Hicks. To read Part 1, go here. Tomorrow, I’ll post my interview with coach Chris Palmer.
Mark Rawden: So you’re a Connecticut guy, how do you feel about playing for the Colonials?
Mike Hicks: Oh, I’m very excited. Growing up in Connecticut, being a UConn sports fan, playing college football at the University of Connecticut, it means a lot to me.
MR: How did minicamp go for you?
MH: Minicamp went very well. They threw the whole playbook at us and we had to learn from our mistakes, but I think that we handled it pretty well.
Andre Dixon: I think that it went real well. I was able to grasp the playbook really early. I thought that it would take a lot longer than that, we started to build some team camaraderie, and I think that it went really well.
MR: Looking building for the NFL, seems like you’ll be playing as many or maybe even less games than you played last year. How do you prepare for the jump to the NFL when you have such a short schedule with the UFL?
AD: You gotta do what you gotta do, basically. When it’s time to play in the NFL and play 16 games or play here and play 8, you gotta make sure your body is prepared, and you gotta do what you gotta do. You’re not doing anything else now, this is your job.
MR: Do you see it being beneficial to you? Can you allow yourself to push harder earlier in the year knowing that there are fewer games?
AD: I wouldn’t say that I’ll play harder because I’m always going to give 100% in everything I do, but if I’m going to be fresh, and maybe get picked up by the NFL at the end of the season, I think that it’s a great idea to only play 8 for the UFL.
MR: How had Coach Palmer been for both of you, how has he impacted your growth so far?
AD: I’ve never been around a coach like him. I can’t pinpoint specific things, but there’s something about him that I really like. I ain’t found one thing that I’ve rebelled against, and I don’t think I will since it’s my job, but there’s a good vibe that I get from him. I get a really excited feeling about what he’s doing, and in my opinion, where he wants to take this league, and this team.
MH: From my experience, Coach Palmer on and off the field seems to be a great guy. He lets you know when you’ve [made a mistake], and I like what he wants to do with this team, you know, representing Connecticut, bringing Hartford together, so I’m excited about it.
MR: Do you feel that it’s a good situation for you to be playing professionally in Connecticut, or would you rather have moved on to another team in another area?
AD: This league is about to take off and you need a fanbase, so for us coming in here and already having a fanbase from Connecticut, I think that it’s a great idea for us to stay here and play in Connecticut. For the league to have a lot of support and for guys to be known around here, you know, I think it was a great idea and a great way to follow up playing at UConn.
MH: I think, you know, I feel more comfortable with more of a background, we’re going to be playing in the same stadium where we played in college. We’re used to this, you know, it’s like second nature. You’re not worried about different things, you can just focus on the task at hand and what needs to be done.
MR: My question for you, Andre, do you feel like this is going to be more of a college-type, run first offense? Has Coach Palmer given you any indication?
AD: This is professional football, and whatever we can do to get mismatches, you know, across the board, that’s what we’re going to do in order to move the football, and we’re going to try and strive for it. Right now I don’t know if it’s going to be a heavy run team, or a heavy pass team, I don’t know what’s going to happen now, but you know, hopefully we’re going to run the ball. You know, I was the #1 draft pick, but it’s up in the air right now.
MR: I don’t know how you didn’t get drafted in the NFL. What happened there?
AD: A lot of things happened, and my path is going to be different than everybody else’s. I can easily give up because I know I’m supposed to do that, but you know everything happens for a reason and I think that it’s going to be a blessing in disguise when it’s all said and done.
MR: Did you get feelers from the NFL?
AD: I was put on a different path. You know what happened, our draft was a bad draft for backs. There were 13 backs coming out, and it’s never like that. And then, right after the draft was over, Pittsburgh said that they signed me, and I wasn’t signed with them, so while everybody was picking up players, they thought that I was signed already. So we were calling everybody up trying to see what was going on.
MR: Right, and that typically all happens in a day or two, right?
AD: Yeah, the other teams were like, “You’re still a free agent?” But they had already signed everybody.
Bad luck for Andre, but he's such a good player that a solid year with the Colonials can only increase his chances of latching on with the NFL. Both guys were a pleasure to talk to.
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