On Monday, Akiem Hicks pulled up to an event at the Boys and Girls Club in the Porsche he's driven since his rookie year.
One of the kids was overjoyed at the sight of such a fancy car. As the boy shouted the word "Porsche" over and over, the Bears defensive tackle saw a bit of himself in the boy's excited demeanor.
"I thought to myself," said Hicks, "'Is that how I am as an adult? Just boisterous, loud, and just making a lot of noise?' That's what I do on the field. I just like to play football. I enjoy it."
Hicks made his presence known Sunday against the Green Bay Packers when his animated celebrations interspersed with severe pain in his recovering elbow. Hicks said that the elbow was healed enough for him to feel comfortable with returning to play, even if it meant aggravating the injury.
"It's about the boys, man," said Hicks. "It's about being out there with your guys. I love competition. I love riding with my guys. So when I see us have an opportunity to extend our season, I'm going to do everything in my power to add to that."
Since the Bears were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday, there has been speculation that Hicks would return to injured reserve for the last two weeks of the season. Hicks said that no decision had been made, but he would be willing to play the season out if cleared by the medical staff and front office.
"I put myself on the line so many times I wouldn't flinch to do it again," said Hicks. "At a certain point, you have to be smart. That's what the building's for. That's what the personnel department is for. That's what our GM, our coaches are for, is to make the decisions that are best for the team and the players."
While Hicks has received praise from the coaching staff for his determination playing through his injury, the defensive tackle sees games like Sunday as a part of his job description. He told reporters that he makes his own choices about his body, but "let's just say the Bears have it on lease."
"You would laugh to imagine some of the things that guys play through in this league," said Hicks. "There isn't a week that I can remember where my body felt 100 percent. It's kind of customary. You're used to playing through injury."
Hicks repeated his appreciation of the opportunity to play again this season after the tedious process of rehabbing both his elbow and knee, which kept him out of the Week 4 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
"I wouldn't say it's the most frustrating," said Hicks of the rehab process, "I would say it's the most common thing for an athlete. You're going to have times where your body just doesn't want to respond to the things that you want it to do because you're putting a load on it. You just have to be patient with it sometimes. That's what the eight weeks of IR was about. I had to sit still and allow my body to do its job and heal itself."
Hicks did not care to speculate how the season might be different for the Bears if he had been able to play in every game, saying, "if a wish was a fifth, we'd all be drunk." Instead, Hicks discussed the things he expected to learn about his teammates during the final two games of the season.
"What type of respect do they have for themselves?" said Hicks. "How do they see themselves? What are they willing to put on the line for their dreams? It's really just a self-check. Things haven't gone the way you wanted, you hit a wall in some situations, so how are you going to respond to it? That's the age-old question for an athlete or a person in general: How do they respond to adversity?"