By Joe Davidson
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks of Del Campo High School and Sacramento City College was picked by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday evening, making him the region's highest pick this year.
The 6-foot-5, 335-pound Hicks is a well traveled soul known for his good cheer and enormous frame. He went from Sac City to national power LSU, then finished at Regina University in Canada, a journey he described as "a wild ride." Hicks did not play a single down for LSU. He left the program after he was targeted in minor recruiting violations, including impermissible phone calls and temporary lodging. Saints executives told media Friday night that Hicks was noted for his strong character.
After playing at Regina, Hicks impressed at the East-West Shrine Game practices and in the game that features top senior talents from across the country.
Former NFL executive Bill Polian raved about Hicks during draft coverage on ESPN, saying, "This is a powerful man. He ate it up in the East-West. This is a guy with a lot of upside. He showed that. This is a good pick."
Dave Hoskins coaches the offensive line at Sac City and he held keen interest on Hicks in practice. And in the weight room.
"He has all the physical attributes and he is humongous," Hoskins said. "In the weight room, he'd put plates upon plates upon plates on the bar, and when there was no more room for plates on the leg extension, he'd stack them up. That's how strong he was in the weight room. He was in the weight room every single day after practice, loved it. He's a great athlete. He can fly."
We will update with any more local NFL Draft prospects here and on Twitter: @sb_joedavidson
Here's a look at some other area prospects who expect to be in an NFL camp this summer:
• ARMOND ARMSTEAD, DL, Pleasant Grove, 6-foot-5, 295 pounds:
Eager to compete after missing last fall at USC; impressed in pro day and can play DE or DT; very high football IQ and powerful and quick.
• MILES BURRIS, LB, Granite Bay, 6-3, 235:
Led San Diego State in tackles last two seasons after setting prep tackling records with Grizzlies; can bench 445 pounds, so imagine how easy it must feel to knock ballcarriers over.
• TAYLOR DEVER, OL, Nevada Union, 6-5, 295:
Fifth-year senior anchored Notre Dame's line last fall after three years as a reserve. Bright as he is brutish, Dever had pony tail snaking out of back of his helmet and was something of cult hero in South Bend.
• ISAIAH FREY, DB, Jesuit, 5-11, 195:
Nevada standout wasn't invited to NFL combine, but Lions have expressed interest, including recent workout. Very quick, smart, instinctive.
• ASA JACKSON, DB, Christian Brothers, 5-10, 195:
Academic honoree at Cal Poly has superb coverage skills and big-play ability; also played on return teams; considered quick if not blazing fast. Very bright.
• CHRISTIAN TUPOU, DT, Grant, 6-2, 300:
Returned to form for USC last fall after missing 2010 with knee injury; a run-stopping "plugger." Graduated with degree in political science and was motivated by father, a custodian, who told him as a child, "don't be like me."
• DEVON WYLIE, WR, Granite Bay, 5-9, 190:
Ran a school-record 4.25-second 40-yard dash at Fresno State and 4.39 at NFL combine; sometimes seemed too fast for his own good with nagging hamstring injuries. Giants brought him in for a look last week.
• LARRY WRIEDT, OL, Florin, 6-5, 340:
Out-of-nowhere prospect from West Liberty of West Virginia and Sacramento City College can play tackle or center; plans to be "the biggest police officer ever in Sacramento" after football
Photo: Akiem Hicks of Del Campo High School and Sacramento City College (54 in pursuit) is the highest local NFL draftee this year. Bee photo by Randall Benton