Football community remembers hall of fame coach Joel Hicks

Published: Mar. 5, 2023 at 6:51 PM EST
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PULASKI, Va. (WDBJ) - Legendary local high school football coach Joel Hicks has died, according to Pulaski County Public Schools. Some of Hick’s former players talked to WDBJ7 about the impact he had on their professional careers and the Pulaski community.

Coach Hicks became Pulaski County High School’s head football coach in 1979. As a coach, Hicks was known for leading with tough love.

“I would not be the only player that would say how much it meant to them later in life to be coached the way they were coached,” said former NFL player Shayne Graham.

Graham played under coach Hicks from 1992-1995. Graham says as a person Coach Hick’s heart was immeasurable.

“There’s a time in your life when things were going well and when things aren’t always going well. And he was there for all of those,” added Graham.

New Orleans Defensive Line Coach Todd Grantham says every Friday night the stadium was the place to be. Grantham was in middle school when Coach Hicks first got hired and played under his leadership from 1982-1984.

“Developed a legacy that really you know been unmatched you know since then. And really brought a community together,” said Grantham.

Coach Hicks loved the community as much as the community loved him.

“The people of Pulaski County made it my home. I live here, I’ll die here,” said Hicks in 2008. “They made it my home and they backed me and we’ve established quite a football program.”

He had over 200 wins, 17 district titles, six regional titles, and one state championship. Graham was a part of the winning team in 1992.

“He actually called on me to kick a game-winning field goal in the state semifinals. Many people he might not do that because I was a freshman,” explained Graham. “But he ended up doing it. We made it and we ended up winning a state championship. The only one our school has ever won.”

In 2008 the field was named after Hicks and in 2016 he was inducted into the VHSL Hall of Fame.

But despite his amazing accomplishments, his relationships with players were the most important thing.

“And whether you were going on to extend your careers as a college player or hey you were going to go in the community and become an important part of that community he really had a deep care for how you were developing as a man and the choices you were making,” added Grantham.

Becoming a second father to many like Graham and Grantham.