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Saints Roster Countdown 2014: #76 Akiem Hicks

With another day of rain on the forecast for today's training camp, Sean Payton hopes to improve upon yesterday's "flat" performance. Meanwhile, we're counting down the days until the Saints kick off the regular season in Atlanta, by taking a brief look at the guys who currently stand on the roster. Today we check out #76 (DE) Akiem Hicks!

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

As we count down from 50 days until the New Orleans Saints begin their regular season in Atlanta, on September 7th, we're getting to know a little bit about those players who have signed on to bring home another Lombardi trophy.

Today, we take a brief look star defensive end Akiem Hicks, aka Godzilla!

So, with no more ado:

26 DAYS UNTIL ATLANTA!!!

#76 (DE) Akiem Hicks (3rd Year)

Akiem Hicks had a colored journey through college football before being drafted out of the University of Regina by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.  After a year of football at Sacramento City College, in California, he was rated as a top junior college player and signed on to play at LSU.  However, recruiting violations by LSU made him ineligible for the 2009 season.  Unable to transfer to another American football program, Hicks went to work at a DirecTV call center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, while he considered his next move.

Despite an offer to play for the Toronto Argonauts, of the CFL, he decided to continue his college education at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada.  After his first season playing football with the Regina Rams, he was drafted by the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League, but again decided to stay in college.  After another successful season with the Rams, and a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Game, he went on to become the second-highest draft pick out of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (behind Mike Schad, in 1986).

After an impressive rookie season as a defensive tackle with the Saints in 2012, Hicks transitioned in the offseason and started all 16 games of the 2013 season at left defensive end, opposite Cameron Jordan.  With the size and strength to be able to handle double teams, the young defender -- nicknamed Godzilla by teammates -- led the Saints defensive line last season with 72 stops (35 solo) while adding 4.5 sacks.  He has proven quite effective on Rob Ryan's defense, both against the run and as a pass rusher.  Even more impressive than his caliber of play thus far is the fact that he is still in development.  If he manages to refine his technique while he still has the strength, desire, and natural athletic ability he displays on the field currently, it is quite likely that he will become a perennial Pro Bowl player.

Contract:
4 yr(s) / $2,642,900 Average: $660,725 per year through 2015.