Roughriders’ Frankie Hickson opens up about mental health ahead of his first start of the year

Frankie Hickson

Hickson is set to make his first start of the season to fill in for injured quarterback Jamal Morrow

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After being in and out of the lineup for the first 13 games of the season, Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Frankie Hickson will make his first start of the season as the Riders visit the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday night (5 p.m., TSN) week. 16 CFL seasons.

“I feel great,” Hickson said after practice earlier this week. “I feel like every opportunity to produce for my teammates and be a part of winning a game is a blessing.”

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With Jamal Morrow starting to struggle with a knee injury, the Riders will call on Hickson to lead the rushing attack on Friday along with Canadian rookie Thomas Bertrand-Hudon.

This season, Hickson carried the ball just 16 times for 58 yards while sitting in eight of Saskatchewan’s 13 games due to injuries elsewhere that forced the Raiders to juggle the ratio.

“It’s tough because first and foremost he’s a good football player and I know he can help us,” Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said. “And he’s a good guy too.

“But they only allow us to dress 45 (players) and unfortunately it just didn’t work out for us to be able to dress two American running backs.”

And going back and forth from the active roster to the practice roster was tough for the 5-foot-8, 200-pounder, who carried the ball 85 times for 533 yards in 13 games as the primary backup in his rookie season last year. until tomorrow.

“It’s been a struggle and that’s just being honest,” said Hickson, 26. “But now I see it as just making me stronger.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be patient, but you kind of look at the bigger picture. When the smaller picture doesn’t show you what you want to see, look at the bigger picture.

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“Bigger picture, I’m in the team, I’m a lot better than I was two years ago. I was on my mom and dad’s couch and now I actually have a team that believes in me enough to make me a starter.”

Frankie Hickson
Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Frankie Hickson (20) runs the ball during the 2022 Labor Day Classic against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post

Having that positive outlook is something Hickson learned the hard way.

“I’ve dealt with mental health issues since I was a teenager,” said Hickson, who grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia. go to college

“The first anxiety attack came my senior year after football season was over, when I was deciding which college to attend.

“Making these big life decisions that I thought at the time were the end of the world if I made the wrong decision, it led to anxiety in my head and eventually depression.”

Hickson continued to deal with several mental health obstacles while attending Liberty University, where he went on to have a strong career for the Flames from 2015 to 2019, finishing as the school’s all-purpose yards leader. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Hickson struggled to find a professional opportunity.

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It wasn’t until 2022, after attending an open tryout for the Riders, that he signed with Saskatchewan. He made the roster after an impressive training camp.

“It’s been a tough journey and it doesn’t mean it’s over and it doesn’t mean I have it all figured out or everything is perfect now, it’s not and it never will be,” Hickson said. “But if we keep at it, if we try to improve our mental health every day the same way we improve in the gym or anywhere on the field, we’ll be fine.”

Along with his faith, what helped Hickson deal with his mental issues throughout the year was finding people to talk to who could relate.

Hickson Riders
Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Frankie Hickson, 20, celebrates with teammate Samuel Emilus after scoring a 63-yard touchdown against the Ottawa Redblacks last season. Photo by Troy Fleece /Regina Leader-Post

Hickson took it a step further and decided to study psychology in his freshman year at Liberty to learn more about why his brain works the way it does. That knowledge, plus what he says is a decreasing stigma around mental health in recent years, has allowed him to open up about the issue even more.

“As more and more time goes on, it’s becoming more accepted and people are talking about it more,” Hickson said. “We’re finding that it’s our silence that’s part of what makes these symptoms worse and makes us feel worse.”

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“That’s why it’s so important to have people you trust around you. Because if you fight it alone and don’t say anything or reach out for help, you’re just stuck in your own mind, brain, and thoughts.

“It’s the fact that we feel so alone and we don’t tell anyone about it, so how could we ever solve the problem.”

“Just to see now where mental health has come and how freely people can talk about it, I see us in a much better light as a society and where we’re going in terms of mental health.”

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