In four years at Lakota West High School, Jordan Hicks never won an outright Greater Miami Conference title. And in his five seasons at the University of Texas, he never won a Big 12 crown.
But in his third season in the NFL, Hicks was able to celebrate the biggest championship in the sports world has to offer when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII on Sunday.
“It really is amazing,” said Kelly Justice, Jordan’s mother who cheered on the Eagles from the stands at U.S. Bank Stadium along with Jordan’s wife, Ivana, his aunt Andrea Justice and grandmother Donna DeFor.
“It was so exciting to be there,” Kelly added. “I’d never done anything like that.”
Unfortunately for Hicks, he found himself in a position similar to his four guests in the stands as he was forced to cheer on his teammates from the sideline rather than playing after suffering a season-ending injury in October.
After winning the starting job as a rookie and starting all 16 games and leading the team with five interceptions in 2016, Hicks started the first seven games this season as the Eagles raced out to a 6-1 start.
But on the second play of the Oct. 24 game at Washington, Hicks ruptured his right Achilles and had to be carted off the field.
It was all too familiar feeling for Hicks, who suffered a season-ending pectoral injury nine weeks into his rookie season. And that followed an injury-plagued career at Texas, including a torn left Achilles four games into his junior season and a season-ending hip injury early in his sophomore campaign.
“And he broke his hand on his honeymoon in June,” Kelly said. “They were in Greece and he slipped on a rock. He called me and said ‘Mom, I want you to hear it from me before you read it in the news.”
While Hicks missed the final nine regular-season games and all three postseason contests, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz kept him involved throughout the Super Bowl run.
“The Eagles lost five or six starters throughout the season, and they all stayed involved with the team,” Kelly said. “Jordan continued to go to all the meetings, and coach Schwartz asked him to do a job every week and then give a presentation to the defense.
“During the games, Jordan would wear the coaches’ headset on the sideline and help the guys coming off the field with adjustments. But there’s still that bittersweet part where he couldn’t be out there on the field with the guys.”
Kelly said she talked to Jordan a lot after the injury and was impressed with how he handled it.
“He was very positive,” she said. “He’s always taken the stance that it’s God’s plan, and he’s at peace with it.
“He’s ahead of schedule on his rehab, and he knows he’ll be back,” she continued. “He’s always been the kind of kid that bounces back. He never lets the past determine the future. I think it takes a certain amount of mental strength to do that, and that strength has been tested every time he has one of these injuries.”
Once New England quarterback Tom Brady’s Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete on the game’s final play, Kelly and the others in the party were able to get on the field to celebrate with Jordan.
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And they attended the private postgame party for family and friends, where rapper Cardi B performed. Kelly said her group stayed until midnight and the party was still going strong at that point.
“I had to fly home Monday and be back at work Tuesday,” she said. “Work doesn’t stop for the Super Bowl.”
Her job in commercial sales with Bob Evans also prevented her from going to Philadelphia for the parade on Thursday. But with Hicks under contract with the Eagles for another year and most of the key pieces from the championship team returning, she hopes there’s another chance to do it all over again next season.
“I’m just thankful he’s doing so well,” she said. “He came back from the first Achilles injury really well, and his recovery from this one is even better. We’re really looking forward to next season.”