Dwight Hicks, S, 1979-85
He was quiet, and he just dominated.
First, he could do anything he wanted as far as rushing the passer. Even though he was small in stature for a defensive end and Bill Walsh wanted to primarily use him as a pass rusher - Fred could've played every down. He was a great pass rusher, because he was very strong. The way he would maneuver and operate against an offensive tackle was unbelievable. His pass-rush reel was pretty amazing.
I remember playing the Cincinnati Bengals during the regular season. And he played against Anthony Muñoz, who had gotten the most outstanding offensive tackle award that year. Fred literally treated him like a child. He was throwing him all over the field. Anthony was perplexed about how to block this guy. Fred would speed rush him around the outside, then Anthony would try to protect his outside, and Fred would fake like he was going outside, take his inside arm and just push Anthony out of the way because Anthony had most of his weight to the outside. And when Fred did that, he pretty much had him where he wanted, he could bull rush him, throw him around, anything he wanted to do. It was so bad that when we played them in the Super Bowl, they would line up in their formation, Fred would always be away from the tight end, and they would shift their tight end over to Anthony Muñoz's side to cut Fred's legs out from under him and then Muñoz would pick him up. Now you're talking about an offensive tackle being that good that he should be able to block anyone one-on-one, but not the case when it came to blocking Fred Dean.
I'll share one funny story from my time playing with Fred. I would never smoke once I got to the stadium or while we were getting ready for the game. I remember Fred coming in at halftime and coming over to me, 'Hicky, Hicky – I need a Newport man, can you give me a cigarette?' I'm like, 'I don't have anymore.' He smoked a lot, but he was pretty incredible. That was a funny story. And when he finally got it, it was like, 'Ahh relief.'
It's been a long time coming. It should have happened sooner. Fred was one of the last pieces of the puzzle that we needed to make that '81 team a Super Bowl Champion. He was the ingredient that completed the puzzle. I just feel so honored and fortunate to have played with the likes of Fred Dean. No one took us seriously to win a Super Bowl. We knew that we had the character and players to compete against anybody, and Fred Dean was one of those players who gave us confidence, because we knew he could do his job just as well as anybody, if not better. He created an environment on our defensive line where he would have to be doubled, sometimes triple-teamed. The rest of the line could do their job a lot more efficiently because Fred needed a lot of attention from the offensive line. I'm sure the offensive coordinators preparing for us made it a point to concentrate on Fred, believe me.
I'm disappointed that I can't be there in Canton, because Fred and I roomed together at camp up in Rocklin. We were close, and I would love to be there to see him honored in such a manner because he deserves it. I was the defensive captain of the '84 Super Bowl team, and he was one of the guys who elected me defensive captain. And so I wanted to be there to wish him well, and congratulate him and celebrate this wonderful time and wonderful honor that will be bestowed upon him. I will be taping it, because it's something I would like to experience. Although I won't be there, I'll be there in spirit. And just to see him collect and receive this great honor, I will share it with him from Southern California.