But if he were so inclined, the now former Palmyra and future University of Connecticut middle linebacker could have averted his eyes from the Hersheypark Stadium scoreboard late Saturday night and proudly reflected on the quality of his first performance on the big stage.
In the 55th Big 33 Football Classic in the heart of Chocolatetown, Hicks and his Pennsylvania teammates endured a fourth straight loss to their rivals from Ohio, a come-from-ahead 24-21 overtime setback that saw the Keystone State's 21-7 mid-fourth quarter lead vanish in a haze of turnovers and one humongous special teams blunder.
The epic meltdown, though, could not be laid at the feet of Hicks and his defensive mates, who were really only directly responsible for seven of the 24 points Ohio would put on the board thanks to the late misadventures by the offense and special teams. And the guy playing middle linebacker for most of the night - as well as on special teams and a few cameo snaps at defensive end in pass-rushing situations - was right in the middle of Pennsylvania' s mostly inspired defensive play.
Putting his can't-be-taught nose for the football to good use, the 6-foot-3 235-pound Hicks was in on at least a half dozen tackles - maybe more, since official defensive stats were not available - and more importantly showed
"I think I did all right," Hicks said modestly, as a throng of family, friends and well-wishers who were pretty excited by what they saw their favorite player do on the field waited for him to finish his media obligations. "I also really wanted to win the game, but I think I played all right given the circumstances and everything. They had a lot of good athletes. I
After playing on the coverage team on the opening kickoff, Hicks watched the first defensive series from the sidelines as Ohio put together an impressive drive that ultimately ended with a missed field goal.
But from there, Hicks spent the overwhelming amount of Pennsylvania's defensive snaps on the field and in the thick of the action against the best Ohio had to offer. Included among that group of elite athletes were running backs Ohio Warren Ball (Ohio State) and Jack Snowball (Miami), whom Hicks forcefully introduced himself to on a few occasions.
"I was nervous coming into the week," Hicks admitted. "I was like, 'These guys are gonna be really tough, bigger, stronger and faster than I'm used to. But I adjusted real quick throughout the week, and I'm happy with my performance."
He wasn't the only one. Palmyra head coach Chris Pope, part of a large and vocal group of Hicks supporters that made their voices heard from the stands, was thrilled not only to see his former charge play in such a high-level contest, but also to see him perform like he belonged in it.
"It was great, I'm so happy for him," Pope said. "He had a great game. I knew he was gonna be good. He was excited all week. It was fun, the whole process was great. And it was really the icing on the cake to see him play and do as well as he did.
"I think there's no doubt that he's gonna
Hicks, in turn, couldn't help but be impressed with the level of support he received. Palmyra is obviously a short drive from Hersheypark Stadium, but the significant fan/friend showing was apparent to the soon-to-be Huskie nonetheless.
"I heard 'em every time I made a tackle," Hicks said with a smile. "It was great. Most of my family members were here. It was great to have them support me. Some came from Ohio, one came from Arizona. They came from all over to watch me play. It meant a lot to me."
"He did a great job representing our program at Palmyra and the community and everything," Pope said. "Especially with the game being here, so many people could come out. There were probably about 75 people here for Jon in our little section. So that was really neat."
The only thing missing was a happy ending on the scoreboard.
An end to Ohio's recent dominance appeared imminent until quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg (Florida) was bitten by the interception bug late, and kick returner Desmon Peoples (Rutgers) handed Ohio the tying TD late by fumbling into the end zone on an ill-fated return try.
Kicker Tyler Grassman then officially continued Pennsylvania's Big 33 losing streak with a 39-yard FG in OT that was quickly followed by another ill-advised Mornhinweg throw that was picked off to seal the Keystone State's fate.
So it wasn't a perfect night for Hicks. But as a whole, Big 33 week was minus any significant flaws.
"It was a great week, a great experience for all the guys," Hicks said. "We really bonded throughout the week. We've got a bunch of characters on the team, so it made the week really fun. We came up short, and everyone's really disappointed about that because despite it being an all-star game we really wanted to win."
"But the whole experience, we all had fun with that. It is what it is, and we'll move on."
To a higher level of competition that Hicks proved on Saturday night he's more than ready to take on.