Marietta's Lavon Hicks reflects on successful athletic career

Southeastern Oklahoma State University Athletics
Lavon Hicks gained 1,002 yards on the ground during the 1971 season to become the first-ever 1,000-yard rusher at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

Lavon Hicks knows success.

He got his athletic start in Marietta, Oklahoma, where he helped pace that team to a 1967 state championship in football.

He would also tack on state championships in track and field, setting records in the process.

And it got him noticed. Specifically by then head coach at Oklahoma State Floyd Gass.

Hicks would go on to spend his freshman season in 1970 in a Cowboy uniform near the end of the era when freshmen were not permitted to play.

Following that season football would bring him closer to home, bringing him to Southeastern Oklahoma State University and setting the stage for him to return to his accustomed level of success.

But finding success was not the only thing that his move to Durant brought him.

After finding himself in Blue and Gold he would also begin soaking up the guidance of the Southeastern coaching staff.

And specifically head coach Duke Christian, and assistant coaches Richard Rutherford and Val Reneau.

“I was blessed,” Hicks said. “Val Reneau was a college coach I thought a lot of down there [at Southeastern]. And Richard Rutherford, he was more than just a coach. And Duke Christian who really allowed me to do what I like to do and that’s run the football.

“Coach Christian knew me from OSU,” Hicks said. “I went to OSU as a freshman and started on their freshman team and we went 9-1 and he knew me up there. They were able to put me on full scholarship at midterm, Central State was willing to do it after the season, but Southeastern could do it at midterm and that’s part of the reason I came. And I’m sure coach Christian had a lot to do with that.”

Those coaches would have a profound effect on Hicks, not just on the field, but as he moved past his playing days and into a life roaming the sidelines.

But first, he had something to prove on the field, and those coaches gave him the opportunity to do just that.

From 1971 through 1973 Hicks carried the ball up and down the field for the Savages more effectively than anyone before him and nearly everyone who has come after him.

His 1971 season he gained 1,002 yards on the ground and wrote his name in the record book as the first-ever 1,000-yard rusher at Southeastern.

“Coach Christian would let me carry the ball,” Hicks said. “Sometimes 30 times a game or maybe more. That’s a lot of carries for one game, but they let me do that a lot. It was tough going. We weren’t racking in big yards every time. I think I had one of the first 200-yard rushing games at Southeastern.”

That season would remain the top rushing season in program history for 22 years before Earnest Hunter reached 1,008 in 1993.

And overall, only nine seasons have surpassed the mark he posted in 1971.

Over his career he would carry a large load as a feature back and his career total ranked as high as third all-time and would still maintain top-10 standing in school history. His mark would also rank seventh-best in the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference when it existed.

And all the while, it was the Southeastern coaching staff pushing him to be better on and off the field.

“You really don’t know what coaches do until it’s over with,” said Hicks. “Then you start realizing. Me being sick with cancer, I’ve had at least 200 of my kids call me. You just don’t realize the effect you have. You might not think you do.”

That push carried into his career on the track as well where he held multiple records for the Savages, some of which would still hold as track made the move from yards to meters in distance measurement.

Lavon Hicks wsa a four-time state champion in track during his senior year in high school.

“I was a four-time state champion in track my senior year in high school,” Hicks said of his time as a two-sport star. “I figure I still hold the state record in a couple things and that’s getting pretty old.”

And all the while he carried those lessons with him throughout his time in Durant and beyond graduation as he made the transition to the sidelines and beginning a coaching career.

He would make a few stops rising up the ranks before returning to where his athletic career started as a high school athlete, Marietta, Oklahoma.

Hicks would take over the same MHS Indian football program that he had helped lead to a state title in 1967.

“I went to Marietta,” Hicks said. “And that’s where I’m from. When I played at Marietta we won a state championship and when I went back and coached we won one. Being from Marietta and knowing the tradition and knowing the coaches, like Bob McLain, DC Willis and Blake Smalley, I just kind of stepped right into it. I knew the rivalries that Marietta had.”

And something amazing would happen as he used the lessons he learned from the trio of Christian, Rutherford, and Reneau.

Those teams picked up speed and found success.

It took us a few years to get going,” Hicks said. “But that’s part of it. The way I was coached you just try to do the best you can and that the way I ran it.”

So much so that 20 years to the season after winning a state championship as a player at Marietta High School, Hicks would take that same program back to the pinnacle of Class A football with a 15-0 state championship winning season in 1987.

“We were really one of the first one-back offenses in 1987,” he said. “They didn’t even think about a one-back offense back then.”

He would have much success at MHS despite not winning another state title and would go on to make another stop at Anadarko High on his journey as well, but he continued to carry the mentorship lessons he learned those years he spent in the Blue and Gold.

“I always believed in speed,” Hicks said of how his coaching philosophy was shaped. “When I went to Marietta and coached, of course you saw a lot more speed over at Southeastern than you do in high school. And people don’t realize speed kills. You can work on your speed and that’s one of the things we did over at Marietta.”

“We took the defense too,” he continued. “A 4-4, kind of a 4-3 look and too that over to Marietta too from Southeastern. And the I formation, and when you have a great I back like I had in Marietta, and when you have that kind of back you need to put him in the I and let him run.”

“There were a lot of things,” he added. “And everything in college is bigger and faster. I learned that speed and being quick we really important.”

Hicks would also look to impart many of the lessons he learned over his years at Southeastern and beyond.

“Being prepared,” he said of some of the key lessons he looked to impart.” For every game. And teaching kids that you aren’t going to win every ball game but if you go out there and give everything you’ve got then you have nothing to hang your head about.”

“We had to do that at Marietta,” Hicks said. “When we first got there it was pretty bad. When you’re coaching at a school and you’re five homecoming it shows you what you had to fight through. You don’t have to stay where you’re at, you can rise up and be better. That was one of the things I was so proud of with those Marietta kids and the Anadarko kids. Winning makes a difference. It makes kids work harder and you just can’t say enough about winning. Not everyone gets there but everyone needs to taste it.”

Hicks joins some high company in the Hall of Fame, joining two of the coaches who he played for in Christian and Rutherford, as well as Charles Gulley, who also starred on the track and the football field, and Morris Sloan.

“It means a lot to me,” Hicks said. “Southeastern really is the reason I’m where I’m at right now. I owe Southeastern everything probably. It was an honor to be down there and play.”

“I’d like to thank all the Southeastern, Madill, Marietta, and Anadarko people for all the prayers they’ve given me,” Hicks said. “Helping me through this cancer and getting me on my way.”

“And then I had had three great high school coaches,” he continued. “That was the late Bob McClain, the late DC Willis, and Blake Smalley at Madill. And then of course Val Reneau, Richard Rutherford, who was more than just a coach to me, and then coach Christian. They allowed me to do what I like to do and that’s run the football.”

“And I would like to thank my late parents George Hicks and Marie Hicks,” he continued, “For always being there for me. My dad worked for the Chickasaws and Choctaws for a long time and he would be amazed at what they’ve done down there now at Southeastern.”  

“I’d like to thank Southeastern,” he added. “Like I said, I owe Southeastern everything. So thank you.”