By Julie Bacanskas
At 6-1, 236 pounds, Jordan Hicks seems the epitome of strength.
Opposing teams cannot ignore the linebacker’s presence in the center of the Eagles’ defense week in and week out. During the 2016 season, Hicks racked up 95 total tackles, five interceptions, a sack, and a fumble recovery while playing 95 percent of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps.
But strength isn’t necessarily measured by a person’s size or on-field performance. It’s not equal to the amount of impact plays he makes or the number of wins his team accumulates.
Hicks figured out that life lesson early. Greg Osinski, a friend who would quickly become the most influential person in the linebacker’s life, taught him that.
During his sophomore year at Lakota West in West Chester, Ohio, Hicks was introduced to Osinski, a student with muscular dystrophy. Osinski’s friends, who were all seniors, were preparing to graduate and move on to college, but he was going to remain in high school.
Approached by Osinski’s aide, Darren Walters, Hicks and a group of athletes began spending their fifth-period lunch in study hall with their classmate. Originally, the linebacker looked at it as a way to be a blessing in someone’s life, a way to do something meaningful for a person in need. He didn’t anticipate the bond he and Osinski would develop, nor did he expect his friend to be the one who was a blessing.
Hicks made the most of their time together. A heavily sought after football prospect, he included Osinski in every step of the recruitment process. He and his friend met college coaches such as Urban Meyer, Jim Tressel, and Mack Brown. Hicks would ultimately decide to play for Brown at Texas.
But the linebacker never lost sight of the fact that being a football player didn’t make him brave, especially as he watched Osinski battle every single day for the things he took for granted.
“For me, I would put myself in his shoes at times and think about what would happen if I was to be diagnosed with something this severe, where you know your time is limited and you’re basically counting down the days,” Hicks says. “I’m the No. 1 player in high school football in Ohio, the best linebacker in the country, got all these colleges coming after me, but yet I’m nowhere as strong as this kid who has muscular dystrophy and is in a wheelchair every day, who understands the fact and has to cope with the fact that as an 18, 19, 20-year-old kid he’s going to die soon. To me, it was just so deep.”
“To see his attitude, his true heart through the entire thing be exposed, he was a blessing to all of us. I would have never had the friendships that I have today without Greg Osinski being in place and him being the piece that God used for everybody else and to see him just dominate through that illness was amazing.”
Hicks was off to Austin, Texas after graduation and began his college career with the Longhorns. Being far away from Ohio didn’t affect his relationship with Osinski though, they remained as close as ever.
Then, on September 30, 2012, came the day he, Osinski and all their friends knew was inevitable – a day they never wanted to come. Osinski passed away at the age of 23. One minute he was with them and the next, he was gone.
“It was tough. I was hurt and in Texas. I tore my groin off the bone,” Hicks says. “I got a call. I knew he was struggling. He had been in and out of the hospital for a while and the last time I saw him was in the hospital. He had gone in for something, not sure what it was, but we went and saw him before the season.
“I get back to school, get hurt, whatever. He’s at home and he’s fine. He had actually gotten a brand new tattoo on his arm the day before. Tells you about who he was. He was awesome. But, he had gotten a tattoo and the next day he passed.”