TALLAHASSEE — As former Hillsborough High and Florida State DL Dan Footman watched this year's Seminoles warm up the other day, he couldn't quite get over the sight of his son, Dan Hicks, out there on the field.
"It's really unbelievable. Unbelievable," said Footman, who was an honorary captain for Saturday's game against North Carolina. "I look at him sometimes, and I just start laughing. It doesn't seem that long since I've been here, but it's been that long."
But when Hicks, 19, a redshirt freshman defensive end from Mississippi, rushed from the backside to level Tar Heels RB Shaun Draughn for a 2-yard loss Saturday, you couldn't help but think it was the early 1990s again and a powerfully built, speedy and freakishly gifted No. 58 was making plays.
Hicks has nine tackles, three for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Not bad statistics considering he's backing up sophomore Brandon Jenkins, the team leader in sacks (10, sixth in Division I-A) and tackles for loss (151/2, tied for eighth in I-A).
"He's coming," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said of the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Hicks. "He's just learning to play with that level of consistency. I think he's got a chance to be a really good football player."
Like any competitive athlete, Hicks would like more shots to impress.
"It is tough," he said. "You want that reward for the hard work you put in. But at the same time, you have to understand you have to be patient. Sometimes, the opportunity is not right there in front of you. Just like last year when I came, I was on the scout team.
"This year, I'm actually able to play, so I can't be too upset. I am getting a few snaps. It may not be as many as I'd like, but it's still an opportunity. So each time I get in, I have to try to take advantage of it."
For perspective, he merely has to talk to his dad.
Footman had to go to junior college before joining FSU. Then one day after moving from linebacker to lineman in the preseason of 1990, he tore ligaments in his left knee so severely that some feared he might never walk normally again, let alone chase down quarterbacks and running backs and go on to an NFL career (Browns/Ravens and Colts).
"I had a lot of obstacles to overcome. I dealt with a lot of frustration," said Footman, who owns a real estate and construction company in Jacksonville.
"So when he calls me, I'm usually able to relate to something that actually happened to me so I can talk to him and give him some type of story that I went through. It lets him know he's not out by himself. He's going on what it looked like when I left (here). But before I left, I went through a lot. I had a lot of hills to climb."
Hicks has seen only the highlight tape, and make no mistake, Footman's was a breathtaking compilation.
"He was pretty fast. He could run down bootlegs, which I am yet to do," Hicks said. "He was running them down with no problems, blitzing extremely fast, hitting holes, knocking running backs back. It was amazing watching him play. He was pretty good."
So he heeds his dad's advice, whether it's about techniques to beat linemen or dealing with playing time or other challenges of being a student-athlete.
"He keeps me motivated," Hicks said. "He tells me, 'Son, be patient. I've been through the same thing, and just take advantage of your opportunities.' "
Haulstead hauling in passes: Sophomore WR Willie Haulstead had 10 catches for 154 yards, both career highs, to go along with his team-leading fifth touchdown against North Carolina.
Although he would have preferred a win, he said it was "pretty cool" to have his "first big game."
"I always had that in my mind that I could do that. I had to wait for the chance," he said.
So, too, has Fisher.
"Hopefully, if he'll continue to come out here and practice and do the things and hopefully grow his confidence level," he said. "I've been waiting for that."
Sweet November? From 2005-09, the Seminoles went 26-13 in September and October but 8-12 in November. They are 0-1 in November so far this season with three games to go.
Did you know? FSU didn't commit a turnover for the first time this season on Saturday. It was the first turnover-free game since a 45-12 loss to Florida on Nov. 24, 2007.