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Saturday, October 8, 2011
Nicks succeeding under the radar

By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Hakeem Nicks is one of the last few members, it seems, of a dying breed.

While many of the NFL's superstar wide receivers have diva-like personalities befitting of their bold and flashy games, Nicks prefers to stay out of the limelight and lets his play do the talking.

While Chad Ochocinco may have more than 2.8 million Twitter followers, Nicks doesn't have any.

"I don't tweet. I don't even got no Twitter. I ain't got no Twitter, no Facebook. Nothing," Nicks said. "That's just not my personality. The marketing guys kind of wanted me to get a Twitter going on, but I'd come home and probably forget I had Twitter."

The New York Giants' 23-year-old, under-the-radar weapon doesn't plan on tweeting anytime soon.

"No, no, no," Nicks said. "There's a few imitators I've heard."

Yes, plenty. Search Nicks' name on Twitter and you find handles like "HakeemNicks," "RealHakeemNicks," "HakeemNicksNY," "Hakeem_Nicks" and "Therealnicks."

The problem is, they're all fakes. The only time you can find the one and only "Hakeem Nicks" is on the football field every Sunday, making one-handed, back-shoulder and jump ball receptions. But afterward, there are no flamboyant celebrations -- not even when he scores a touchdown.

You may want to see Nicks pull out a cellphone or a Sharpie, do the riverdance or perform CPR on the pylon, a la Ochocinco after he reaches the end zone. Nicks just isn't going to.

"That's just their personality. I'd never knock another man's personality," Nicks said, referring to the likes of Ochocinco and Carolina Panthers wideout Steve Smith. "My personality's not like that. I might pause or pose or something, but I don't dance or anything like that. My high school coach always told me, 'Act like you'd been there before.' So that's what I do."

Hakeem Nicks
Hakeem Nicks is on pace to have another career year for the Giants.

Despite being in the NFL for just three seasons, Nicks has certainly made his mark. In 13 games last season, the North Carolina product established career highs in receptions (79), receiving yards (1,052) and touchdowns (11). As he heads into a Week 5 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, Nicks is on pace to put up similar statistics in 2011 (24 receptions, 347 yards, 2 TDs at the quarter pole).

Last Sunday in Arizona, Nicks had arguably the best game of his career, catching 10 Eli Manning passes for a single game-best 162 yards and the decisive touchdown -- a go-route down the left sideline late in the fourth quarter in which Nicks easily beat single coverage.

"I don't think I necessarily got off to the best start," Nicks said. "You'll never play a perfect game, so I think I can always get better. I don't think it's my best yet."

It's that type of attitude that has endeared Nicks to his coach.

"He's my type of player," Tom Coughlin said. "When he's out on the field, he is very aggressive, very aggressive, very aggressive. He's anxious to be a participant in affecting the outcome of games. That's how he plays. All those things are good. He's aggressive. He's competitive. He wants the ball. He can obviously catch the ball in very difficult circumstances."

Aside from Nicks, the Giants' receiving corps has been inconsistent. Mario Manningham is off to a slow start, while the tight end position has yet to be productive. Victor Cruz has come out of nowhere to shine, but when Manning needs to make a play, he throws it Nicks' way, because even if Nicks sees double coverage, he still has a good chance of making the catch.

"It happens," Nicks said of teams rolling an extra defensive back his way. "You got to just work harder to get open then."

At this point, Nicks feels as if he's just scratching the surface and beginning to realize his potential.

"It's still Year 3 for me," he said. "I don't never want to feel like I'm getting too big headed. I'll stay humble, within myself, so I feel like there's always stuff for me to work on each day."

Just not expanding his social media network or building his brand.

"I know in my heart what I can do out there," Nicks said. "I'm confident within myself and the way I play. I don't need nobody else to confirm that.

"I think for me personally, I play to be the best. This is my personal goal. But as far as other people acknowledging it, that don't really make a difference to me. I do it for me and myself and God. I do it for God. I play for God. He's the one that's given me these abilities."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.