JACOB MOORE | Evergreen sports editor
Redshirt senior running back Gerard Wicks hopes to eventually play for a franchise in the NFL, not unheard of from athletes in college football. But air-raid offensive schemes can undoubtedly hinder the production of backs like Wicks who hope to be drafted.
Despite the Cougs’ consistently low ground numbers, Wicks understands that rushing attempts are statistically becoming more of a commodity in the conference.
“When [Leach] recruited me, it was a lot different,” he said. “The league is changing.”
His former football coach, Raul Lara, praised Wicks for his leadership and talent.
“Wicks was special,” Lara said in a phone interview. “When he ran around the corner, he looked like a stallion. Of course I remember Gerard Wicks.”
Boise State, as well as Pac-12 football programs at the University of Southern California and rival Washington, craved Wicks when he was in high school.
The “stallion” decided against those institutions and others, committing to a Cougar team that finished with an underwhelming 3-9 record in 2012 — a decision many players wouldn’t even consider.
Lara resigned from Long Beach Polytechnic High School and moved on to coach at Warren High School. Although he is from California, Lara is flying to Pullman to watch some of his former players — Wicks included — battle it out.
“People think I’m a USC fan because I live in Southern California,” he said. “I got a couple guys at [USC] and a couple [at WSU]. I just root for my guys.”
Teams with patterns of winning often experience less trouble trying to persuade players to join their school. However, Wicks had little interest in joining an already-stable in-state program. He said he wanted to be a part of something bigger.
“I could come here and change the program — my class [could],” Wicks said, according to the Coug Fan website. “We’ll be known as the team who changed the program around, who changed the culture at Wazzu.”
As a three-time letter winner in high school track and field, speed has helped the running back and his class shift the program upright.
Wicks carried the ball 62 times in 2014 — his first year playing in a WSU uniform. One season later, he came close to doubling his total rushing attempts with 107.
“Yes, football is my passion. I live it, breathe it, eat it,” he said without hesitation. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it to the NFL.”
No. 23 describes the feeling of breaking through opposing defenders, knowing he can dance his way to the end zone in front of thousands of fans, as “a natural high.” One of his goals is to experience that raw emotion at the next level.
“[The NFL is] not only looking for these guys from back in the day,” Wicks said, according to ESPN. “They want backs who can spread out, catch the ball out of the backfield, who can go to a slot and be like a one-on-one with a linebacker.”
He has received the ball in the air, rather than via hand-off, 91 times in his college career, making him a consequential double-threat to the defense. Wicks’ hands are what give him versatility as a predominant running back.
“What you’re telling me is nothing new,” Lara said of Wicks wanting to play in the NFL. “That’s pretty much every kid’s aspiration. I think Gerard has a very good possibility if someone would give him a chance.”