Sean Hickey a leader on and off field for Syracuse football

Elected as SU team captain, the fifth-year senior will be a key piece of the Orange's improved offensive attack.

As opening night of the 2014 Syracuse football season speeds ever closer, a lot of fanfare surrounds the debut of the Orange’s improved up-tempo offense.

That’s just how senior left tackle and co-captain Sean Hickey likes it.

Elected as one of four team captains after the Orange’s first practice of the season at the Carrier Dome, Hickey – a pre-season All-ACC offensive lineman – fits the mold of head coach Scott Shafer’s prototypical player. He abounds with quiet confidence, but ultimately lets his performance do the talking.

"I try to take one player at a time individually. If they have issues that they’re trying to work with, I tell them to just come to me and we’ll work through it."
- Sean Hickey

It’s that ability to lead by example that Hickey will bring to the Carrier Dome tonight when SU battles with FCS powerhouse Villanova at 7:30 p.m.

“I’m not a leader that’s going to get up in front of the team and give you a motivational speech or what have you,” Hickey said. “I’m not going to start screaming at guys when they don’t need to be screamed at. I try to take one player at a time individually. If they have issues that they’re trying to work with, I tell them to just come to me and we’ll work through it.

“We’ll do whatever you need to do. I just try to get more of a personal, one-on-one type leadership role.”

Even off the field, Hickey is as good as they come for the Orange.

During his time at SU, Hickey has excelled in the classroom, earning prestigious honors. Hickey was named to the Fall Athletic Director's Honor Roll during three seasons, and he was also a BIG EAST All-Academic Team nominee in 2011 and 2012.

Based on his performance in the classroom as well as on the field, it’s easy to see the Murrysville, Pa., product is very cerebral. He can analyze and interpret things that would perplex others. Thus, it should be no surprise that Hickey was named a team captain in his final year.

Shafer knew the talent was there all along.

“Sean is a selfless young man who plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Shafer said in an interview with The Post-Standard. “I think the players have noticed that. He’s extremely well spoken, and he does a great job in school. He also does a great job of fighting through the pain as a hardnosed offensive lineman. That’s exactly what Sean is for us.”

But that means nothing without results on the field, and heading into his third season as a starter for the Orange, Hickey must deliver more than ever.

Offensive Coordinator George McDonald has been adding speed to the offense all through the summer, but how fast it can go comes down to the performance of Hickey and his mates up front.

Also imperative is the health of quarterback Terrel Hunt, who enters his second season at the helm. After a stop at the Manning Passing Academy this summer and plenty of practice reps, Hunt’s throwing mechanics appear better than ever.

But he needs to stay upright, and he can’t do it alone. With Hickey anchoring the line, he knows it shouldn’t be a problem.

“Now, we want to be going like this (on offense),” Hunt said as he snapped his fingers repeatedly. “It still gives me enough time that if I need to see something in the defense, I could change it.”

While Hickey will need to make a few minor changes as well, his general instructions are the same as last season.

Make your blocks. Be a leader. Help the Orange win.

If all goes well, the first victory will come tonight.

“We’re going to be going fast this year, but we did it at the end of last year,” Hickey said. “Our team has done it for the last two years, so trying to add a few more plays to our game shouldn’t be too big of an issue, but we’ll be ready.”

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