ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — One of the NIC-10’s top football players from the past decade is back in the NIC-10 again…this time as a coach, and he’s hard to miss on the field and on the sideline.
Last Saturday evening before the Boylan-Belvidere North guy the biggest guy on the field during warmups wasn’t one of the players. He was Boylan assistant coach Noah Hickcox. He’s 6’5 and 300 pounds. You might remember Hickcox from his playing days. His senior season in 2016 he was the top two-way lineman in the conference. He wore jersey number 72.
Then he moved on to the University of Minnesota where he was a defensive lineman the past four seasons. He played in 27 games including the Outback Bowl in 2019. This past winter though he decided to transfer to Illinois State for his final two seasons of eligibility.
“I had a great time at Minnesota. I cherish all four years that I got there,” said Hickcox. “I just know at this point in my football career and my academic career I was ready to move on.”
At ISU he’ll play for Rockford native Brock Spack.
“I love what Spack does. I love the grittiness that the whole team plays with offense, defense, special teams.”
Which brings us to why Hickcox is currently back at Boylan. Since he played football last fall at Minnesota he wasn’t eligibile to play at ISU this spring during the Redbirds’ spring season. He had some free time on his hands, so he decided to hook up with his former high school coach at Boylan John Cacciatore and see if he wanted some extra help.
“He came back. We went out to dinner. He let me know that he was in the transfer process,” said Cacciatore. “There was no question when he made himself available I was going to find a way to get him out here.”
The players at Boylan couldn’t be happier, especially the linemen who are constantly getting pointers from Hickcox.
“It’s like the perfect mixture between another player and the coach because he’s still in his playing days,” said Boylan senior lineman Max Caltagerone. “He’s so close to our age. The insight that he’s able to give that he got from the D-1 level, the Big 10 level is nothing that I’ve quite had before.”
“Before every game he comes up to me and he tells me he’s got confidence in me and all that, and when I make a play he’s excited,” said Boylan senior lineman and co-captain Nick Fehrle.
“I think being able to give back to a community that gave so much to me it’s the right thing for me,” said Hickcox. “I know that I love working with younger kids.”
That’s why when Hickcox is finished playing at ISU and getting his masters’ degree he wants to become a coach full-time.
“He’s cut out to be a coach,” said Cacciatore. “Make no mistake about it. Even when he was here as a senior he was the first guy to help out the younger guys, so he was good about that back then.”
“I’m just here to help out and give every piece of information that I can and knowledge that I can to these guys,” said Hickcox. “Hopefully get them to 6-0.”