George was magic. You’d be hard pressed to meet a man as sweet and sincere as George Hickman. You also won’t find a better hugger. George made me better by simply knowing him. He made us all better by living the incredible life he lived. Yes, he was that special. And yes, he’s a man whose vacancy in the hearts of those he knew won’t be easily filled.
George passed away last weekend at 88 and instantly left a wake of stunned and saddened admirers. I am a card carrying George admirer and am heartbroken over his passing. For years, George guarded the tunnel that Husky athletes ran through into Hec-Ed; and I say guarded because that is exactly what he did, as any angel would. And every athlete and coach that passed through his tunnel was certainly blessed. He touched so many lives, and I don’t just mean metaphorically—this man hugged us with boundless warmth and high-fived us with contagious energy. Anyone who received either from him undoubtedly went back for more, perhaps because with George, it was never just a hug or a high five.
He was always sure to grab your hand tight and keep you close when he slapped it, capitalizing on this moment as an opportunity to impart a little of his wisdom, and a ton of his support. “You are going to be great, I just know it!” he’d repeat. When he hugged you, he always squeezed especially tight, just so you knew he really meant it; and this was never done without a reminder of how darn proud he was and how much he believed in you. “You are so special and I am praying for you.” That one was always my favorite. There are thousands of us that eagerly anticipated our pre-game rituals with George over the years, a sacred tradition among Husky athletes. But no matter if it was pre-game or post-game, win or lose, you always walked away from George feeling unconquerable; you always walked away smiling. That is the magic of George Hickman: no matter the despair felt after a loss, or the anxiety brimming prior to a game, he could incite hope.
His legacy can be traced to the very core of Husky Nation—every athlete, every coach, heck even fans, cherish their “George moments” and consider themselves blessed for being apart of his life. And ya know what? They are all right. So, what is most sad about his passing is not the loss of those of us fortunate enough to know him, because knowing him was such a vast addition to our lives; but it’s the immeasurable loss of all the future Huskies who won’t meet him, or hug him or love him. Never knowing the magic of George—now that is the greatest loss of all.
His hugs healed, his smiles uplifted and his indelible spirit inspired a nation; Husky Nation surely wouldn’t be as great without the humble influence of this marvelous man. I will sincerely miss you, George. God bless you. RIP.