Saints take Hicks in lone pick of NFL draft's first two days

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints are bringing defensive tackle Akiem Hicks back to Louisiana, three years after his chance to play major college football for LSU fizzled before it had even begun.

The Saints took the 6-foot-5, 318-pound Hicks in Friday night's third round of the NFL draft, adding depth to an interior line that needed it.

"Height, weight, speed -- (Hicks is) the kind of guy that we're looking at in our defensive system," said Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who is handling head coaching duties during Sean Payton's season-long suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation.

"We love his tenacity. We know he's raw. He's got to be coached, but that's the fun part," Vitt said. "He fits the character of our football team. He's got good work habits. We love his resiliency."

Taken 89th overall, Hicks was the first player chosen by New Orleans, which did not have a pick in the first two rounds. Hicks was with LSU in 2009, but never played for the Tigers. He left because he was ruled ineligible for being provided improper transportation and housing. Hicks had a chance to play in the CFL with Toronto, but instead wound up playing college football in Canada at the University of Regina.

Hicks said his journey to the NFL "has been a long one and it has been a rough one at times."

"I've learned a lot the whole way," he added. "I just appreciate everything that has been given to me and taken from me because it has made me who I am today."

Also pleased by the drafting of Hicks was new Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

"When it was all said and done, Akiem stuck out. We're pretty glad we got him," Spagnuolo said. "All in all, when you watch him and see the things that he does, there's a great deal of potential there. He's a big physical football player."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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