NBA to NFL Crossover: Nuggets forward J.J. Hickson

by Aaron Lopez

Playing as an undersized center for much of the past two seasons, J.J. Hickson proved that you don’t have to be a 7-footer to be dominant on the glass.

Effort and determination can be equally effective. Call it a football mentality.

With NFL training camps in full swing, we thought it would be interesting to see where Hickson and some of his Denver Nuggets teammates would fit best if they traded their basketball gear for a helmet and shoulder pads.

NBA Position: Linebacker

Hickson, a power forward, plays with a scowl and intensity that would be right at home on the football field. His game isn’t so much about finesse as it is outmuscling and outworking the opposition.

His ferocity on the glass was on display with the Nuggets last season when he corralled 24 rebounds against Golden State on Jan. 15 and 25 against the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 25. The 25 boards were the third most in franchise history (until teammate Timofey Mozgov grabbed 29 on April 10). Hickson’s 15 offensive rebounds are the most in Denver’s NBA history.

The same relentless approach would be beneficial as he searched for a gap to tackle a running back or a seam to sack a quarterback. Hickson certainly would encounter resistance, but he would refuse to be denied.

NFL Counterpart: NaVorro Bowman

There’s nothing flashy about Bowman as he goes about his duties at inside linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers.

Bowman, a former third-round pick out of Penn State, finished fifth in the NFL in tackles last season with 145 total tackles. He also had five sacks, two interceptions and forced four fumbles.

Final thought:

Both Bowman and Hickson are recovering from major knee surgery. Bowman tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in the NFC Championship game, while Hickson tore his right ACL on March 21. Given their history as tenacious players, it’s likely that they will come back hungrier than ever.