Marc Hicks requires a cane and a bit of patience.
It takes a moment to slide into a seat, to navigate stairs, to board a team bus.
This isn't the Marc Hicks who was a 6-foot-2, 205-pound tailback for Davis High School in 1984, and a specimen described by his coach, Dave Whitmire, as "almost not human."
The Marc Hicks image that remains is that of the most heavily recruited prospect in Yolo County history, projected by Joe Paterno as a Heisman Trophy winner. Hicks went to Cal and rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in a 1985 game to help topple USC. And then he faded just as fast as he once burst into the end zone.
"I'm still here," Hicks said with a laugh while having lunch in Davis on Thursday.
This is the Marc Hicks who endures. The smile and good cheer mask the pain of a body slowly failing him. A neurological disease called sarcoidosis is working on the base of his spine and affects his legs and vision. But Hicks keeps moving. He calls himself a "giver." He is the Davis Joint Unified School District's top security and community relations officer and assistant head football coach at Davis High.
To scores of teenagers he has mentored through the years, Hicks offers a cautionary tale of a shooting star that crashes when academics are neglected. Most aren't star football players, Hicks reminds, so be a star student.
Hicks left Cal following the 1986 season, emotionally sapped from mounting academic woes and buckling under the pressure to be the savior of a 2-9 team. Hicks finished his college career at Ohio State but never rediscovered the success he had early at Cal. At 22, he was finished with football.
Today, Ohio State hosts Cal. Hicks won't watch the game. He'll be leading Davis to Rio Americano High for a nonleague game. Tonight, he'll be inducted into the Davis Hall of Fame. Hicks was a can't-miss prospect who missed, but his legacy is more of a man who improved a lot of young lives, his friends and peers say.
"He's helped hundreds of kids," said Davis Enterprise columnist Bob Dunning, who will introduce Hicks and also will be enshrined into the Hall. "Marc Hicks is a great human being. Things don't always work out the way we think they will, but (tonight) a standing ovation for Marc is assured."
Hicks said he has the same sort of father-son relationship with his son, Davis High wide receiver C.K. Hicks, as he did with his father. Lawrence Hicks died of a stroke when Hicks was 14, a loss he feels even now. C.K., a junior, sports a 3.7 grade-point average.
"Oh, I've been on him," Hicks said. "That's where I missed my dad. Still the most devastating thing I've gone through. Had Dad seen me struggle academically, he would have destroyed me."
Hicks paused and added, "They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, Davis was my village. I can look back and wonder what if, but I won't. Life is not fair. Lost my dad too early. Look at my broken body. But you deal with it, grow from it, enjoy what you do have, and keep fighting, keep going."