CLEARWATER — Rory Hicks is adept at scanning the entire field and zeroing in on the correct target at precisely the right time. The Clearwater Central Catholic senior first developed this skill by tossing the football with his family.
Not as a quarterback, but as a receiver.
The back-yard sessions involved their own version of catch. His father, Greg, was in charge of throwing passes. Rory, along with older brothers Robby and Ryan, took turns running routes and defending each other.
Each grab was worth two points. Whoever got to 10 first was declared the winner.
Eventually, the siblings were the ones throwing passes. They all became signal callers, following the path of their father who was a freshman quarterback at Shorecrest (1979) before eventually moving to receiver when he transferred to Seminole.
Robby quarterbacked Countryside from 2012-13. Ryan played the position in youth leagues before becoming a standout golfer and is now at the Naval Academy.
The Hicks family never really kept score of their backyard battles. At least, that's what Rory says.
"We always kept score," Greg said. "I could control to a certain degree the winners with each pass. I tried to make sure everyone got to win."
The games were intense, too. Ryan was 5 when he broke his wrist — and refused to stop playing until they were finished. The brothers also had their younger sister, Taylor, join them a few times.
It would only be natural for the family to be just as competitive in determining who is the best quarterback. Rory said it is hard to figure out because his dad does not have video from his playing days.
Still, Rory does not need highlights to stake his claim. He has the record to prove he is not only the greatest in his household, but among the best ever in Pinellas County.
In two seasons as the Marauders' starting quarterback, Rory did not lose a regular-season game. He is just the third Pinellas County quarterback in the past two decades to lead his team to consecutive undefeated regular seasons, joining Northeast's Doug Waechter (1997-98) and Countryside's Gray Crow (2010-11).
Rory's overall record is 23-1, the lone loss coming against Chaminade-Madonna in last year's Class 3A state semifinals. He has a chance to avenge that loss when CCC hosts Chaminade in a semifinal rematch on Friday.
For further proof of Rory's greatness, just ask his coaches.
"I've had 18 quarterbacks go on to college at different levels and Rory is just as good if not better than all of them," said John Davis, who was the head coach for two stints at CCC and one at Countryside. Davis has been Rory's offensive coordinator with the Marauders the past two seasons.
Rory's first quarterback competition actually involved his family. He beat out Ryan for the starting job with the Countryside Jr. Cougars, prompting Ryan to focus more on golf, according to their father.
For two years (2015-16), Rory was at Countryside, the same school where Robby started. Rory threw for more than 400 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore.
Rory transferred to CCC as a junior, a move that created some initial nerves.
"When I came over I wanted to prove that I belonged and make sure I didn't let anybody down," Rory said. "Football is big here, and I wanted to show that I can play."
He has done more than that, throwing for more than 3,700 yards and 35 touchdowns combined the past two seasons. The stats have made Rory a headliner in the county.
His younger sister, an eighth-grader at Shorecrest, knows.
"I have teachers and classmates who ask me about how Rory is doing in football all the time," said Taylor, who plays volleyball and basketball with the Chargers.
In fact, Taylor gets so many inquiries that she has thought of printing "Rory's sister" on the back of her warmup uniform.
"We're all really supportive of each other," Taylor said. "I've gone to my older brothers' games for as long as I can remember. And they go to my games whenever they can."
The pickup games with the family continue. Only now, they take place in late December during the "Logan I'm It" flag football tournament, held in Clearwater each year in honor of former Palm Harbor University student athlete Logan Kushner who died in 2012.
The Hicks play as a family.
And Rory is now in charge of throwing passes.
All games 7:30 p.m. Friday. Admission is $9.
Class 6A: Crestview at Armwood
Class 5A: Jesuit at Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
Class 3A: Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna at Clearwater Central Catholic
Class 2A: Hialeah Champagnat Catholic at Admiral Farragut