BGO’s Exclusive Sit Down with Akiem Hicks

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on September 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Seahawks 24-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on September 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Seahawks 24-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

BGO had a chance to chat exclusively with Akiem Hicks!

As we continue to put the 2018 season in the rearview mirror and focus more on 2019, Bear Goggles On has had a chance to speak with some of the key Chicago Bears from 2018. We will continue to post the conversations here as we look back on one of the best seasons the Bears have had in 30 years.

One of those key Bears was Akiem Hicks whose outstanding play was finally rewarded with a spot in the Pro Bowl. Hicks probably should have been All-Pro as well, which we dive right into that at the top of the interview. Hicks is a great player, but has even a better personality.

There isn’t a better Chicago Bear to chat with than Akiem Hicks, so check out this fantastic conversation.

It’s great that you finally earned a spot in the Pro Bowl, but let’s be honest, there should have been a spot on the All-Pro team, at least second team, for you after this season. Nothing against JJ Watt, but you were on the inside and deserved one of those interior defensive line spots.

I will say this, I completely understand the fandom behind the player such as JJ Watt. I love him, the guy plays really well. But I’ll say this, there’s enough recognition for everybody to sit at the table. And do I complain about not getting some of the off the field honors and accolades? I don’t complain. But do I notice and see it and carry a chip on my shoulder when I am not treated the way I feel? I most definitely do.

I’m not saying JJ Watt didn’t deserve the recognition, he had a fantastic season. But he was on the edge. He was barely inside all season. He wasn’t inside dealing with guards and double teams like yourself, that’s what I mean.

That’s the biggest difference between the guys that float inside sometimes is that they’re not usually in on plays when you got 600 pounds of man barreling down on you to push you back there. I think all that should be taken into account when you looking at your defensive tackle spots when you’re looking at All-Pro, Pro Bowl, all those things. Because sometimes all those things, I’ll watch and see a guy that has 10 or 12, 13 sacks but he can’t play the run to save his life. I’m not talking about JJ, I’m just talking about guys around the league. So I think when there’s that voting, you should watch every facet of the game.

Take a minute to talk about the tandem, because I know you guys were in the nickel a lot of the year and why not, you want Bryce Callahan out on the field, but that left you and Eddie Goldman on the inside. And while you accumulated a lot more of the stats, how much of that was due to Goldman eating up blockers and do everything he does on the inside?

Number one, I respect the fact that you brought up Eddie Goldman. I don’t think he gets brought up enough. Because he dominates, destroys, wreaks havoc, anything, when you say, “release the Kraken,” you’re talking about letting Eddie Goldman terrorize the center all game. He’s one of the best defensive lineman I’ve ever been around, simply put.

Agreed, he’s very underrated and I think it was a great job that the organization took care of him prior to the season and didn’t even risk letting him leave via free agency.

Why would you do that? Because he is just that elite. It’s awesome that you know that he doesn’t get the type of notoriety he deserves.

Alright, well, before we look forward, obviously, a brutal loss to the Eagles to end the year, have you gotten over it?

The thing about losing games like that, is that it hurts and the hurt will never go away but you have to be able to move on. You have to get back up and say, “hey, I never want to feel that feeling again and I’m going to do everything within my power to make sure it doesn’t happen.” So I’m at the point now where I said to myself, this happened, this is a reality, and I’m ready to move on.

Obviously, you need to do that, but as a professional athlete, Cody Parkey, if it was just a couple inches more to the inside, who knows? You guys already beat the Rams during the season in what was arguably the best defensive performance in the NFL all year, maybe the Cowboys beat the Saints or the Saints are in a different place when you play them, who knows. How do you not play the “What if” game?

You are going to play it. I played it for a week sitting in my basement watching Netflix. You know you have a lot of what ifs, but if it was a fifth we’d all be drunk, I’m just sayin’ (laughs).

Your defense was outstanding this year, and plenty of credit goes to Vic Fangio. That’s a tough loss for the team, but we all know it’s been a dream of Vic’s to be a head coach and he finally gets his chance in Denver. Happy for Vic Fangio I assume?

Absolutely ecstatic for Vic Fangio. I absolutely love that he gets to live out his dream just as I get to live out mine currently. I will say though, it hurts, it hurts pretty bad. That’s going to be a hurt that’s hard to move on from because I’ve been with this guy for 3 years. I have a great deal of respect for him as a man and as a coach and I’m sure that’s throughout the defensive room. We’re going to miss him but we understand the business of football. When you lose, you get fired and when you win you move on. You’re always going to be in this moment of transition, you just have to accept it but it doesn’t hurt any less.

Chuck Pagano comes in to replace Vic. Are you excited to work with him and what are your thoughts about playing in his defense?

Well, getting to see some of his defenses play at elite levels and watch him manage teams and the type of person he is, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this guy. You know, that’s a rarity for people in general, is to not hear one negative thing. I think that speaks volumes about his character and what type of person he is.

Happy Jay Rodgers is back as your defensive line coach?

Most definitely. I had to have a little continuity here right? You can’t take away my whole defensive staff. I’m happy. Jay Rodgers has been a great coach to me. He’s helped me elevate my game. His football IQ is super high. The funny thing about him is that he was a quarterback previously, and for him to coach defensive line, he just brings an aspect to our room that is uncommon across the league. He helps us get to a point that we can diagnose plays before it even starts, before the motion even goes I know what’s coming at me, and that’s because of the work that he puts in throughout the week.

More from Bear Goggles On

What was the year like with Matt Nagy? Obviously when you win, it’s going to be a lot more fun, but talk about the kind of vibe he brought to the locker room and what kind of impact that made on the team.

You said it to start, winning makes everything fun. We could have been walking the tightrope but because we were winning we all would have been having a great time. Nagy has brought in a very vibrant culture, he likes to say swag but swag is so 2014 (laughs). He makes the environment fun, so we appreciate him for that, and that’s why we play the game. We play the game because we enjoy it and we love doing it and he keeps that close to home.

A couple more things before we let you go, starting with Mitch Trubisky. What did you see from Mitch in terms of growth from his rookie year to this past season and talk about how much faith this team has in him at the quarterback position?

I had players come up to me from others team and say the difference from Mitch from year one to year two is not even the same quarterback. So I appreciate that playing from the defensive side to know that my quarterback is growing. Now I get to see it, but I’m going to have a bias because I see him every day and I want him at his best to win, but when other defensive players see it, it means a lot.

BGO's exclusive chat with Mitch Trubisky!. dark. Next

Last one for you, so many players are so buttoned up on social media, but you really let it rip and you’ll go after fans that come at you and you’ll say anything. You have a much different vibe than a lot of players have, for the better, on Twitter. I saw recently that after you posted a photo, some guy told you that you looked like a PE teacher on New Year’s Eve and you really let him have it.

I told him you look like the type of guy that takes pictures in public bathrooms and raw butts toilets (laughs). You gotta get after people because this is all for fun. I don’t take social media super seriously. I know you have to hold yourself accountable for things you say but I’m a person, I’m a human being, I’m flawed just like anyone else, so if someone tells me something, I’m going to tell them what’s on my mind.