This story was originally published Thursday, August 17 for Baylor Bear Foundation members. To receive exclusive content and stories like this throughout the year, join the Bear Foundation. Support from the Bear Foundation helps cover the cost of scholarships for more than 500 Baylor student-athletes each year. Learn more at BaylorBearFoundation.com.
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
“He’s my idol. He’s the greatest father in the world. I love him to death, obviously,” Bicknell said of his dad, Jack Bicknell, the head coach at Boston College from 1981-90. “I watched him as a coach, and then I also had the chance to play for him at Boston College. There really was never anything else I was going to do.”
It was only natural to join the family business. His older brother, Jack Bicknell Jr., is the offensive line coach at Ole Miss and formerly the head coach at Louisiana Tech.
“When my brother was there (at BC), they went to five out of six bowl games,” Bob said of his brother, Jack Jr. “He was at the Miracle at Miami, he was the center for (Doug) Flutie, all those unbelievable things. When I got there, it was kind of a change where they were going schedule-wise and facilities and all that, so we started to struggle a little bit, and my dad got fired my senior year. So, that was rough, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’d go right back and do the exact same thing, because I had a chance to be in something that special with him right there.”
Jumping right into the coaching ranks, Bob spent five seasons at Boston University, coaching safeties (1993), running backs (1994) and linebackers (1995-97). Four years after the Terriers went 12-1 and advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA quarterfinals, the program was dropped.
That was when Bicknell followed his dad again, this time to NFL Europe. He spent two years with the Frankfurt Galaxy, four seasons with the Berlin Thunder and his last two with the Cologne Centurions, winning three World Bowl titles and serving as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at his last two stops.
“Sometimes, those guys go through NFL camps, and they get cut . . . and their eyes will be down and their shoulders are slumping,” Bicknell said. “And you have to tell them, ‘You know, hey, you’re a good football player. Your opportunity is going to come.’’’
And so did his.
After one year as the offensive line coach at Temple, where the staff included Rhule and current Baylor assistants Jeff Nixon, George DeLeone and Mike Siravo, Bicknell took his first NFL job as the assistant offensive line coach with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was reunited with former BC assistant and Frankfurt Galaxy head coach Dick Curl.
“It’s all the same, really,” Bicknell said. “Obviously, recruiting and some things are different, but the kids are the same. That’s what always bother me is when people talk about the kids up there not being the greatest. They’re great, great human beings. If you’re talking about 90 guys that are there the majority of the time, 88 of them are the greatest guys you’ve ever met. They’re really elite people, and you just enjoy that part of it.”
In a 10-year run with the Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and last season with the San Francisco 49ers, Bicknell said the greatest receivers he worked with were DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Stevie Johnson and Jeremy Kerley.
“(Kerley) is getting a little bit older, but I had him last year in San Francisco. He’s one of the best pros I’ve ever been around,” he said. “I really enjoyed all those guys. There’s just a lot of talent, and it’s fun to be around them.”
Under contract for another year with the 49ers when head coach Chip Kelly was released, Bicknell could have sat out this year, but “I wanted to be around Matt Rhule.”
“When I first met him, I was coaching the offensive line, he was coaching the defensive line (at Temple),” Bicknell said. “And I remember telling my wife, ‘This guy is the best teacher I’ve ever been around.’ Take away everything else, he’s just an unbelievable teacher. So, when I had the chance to come down here, I called and I begged him for the job. Technically, I could have just sat out, but that’s not something I even thought about because of Matt Rhule, because of Baylor and because of this state, really.”
After spending 18 of the last 19 years either in the NFL or NFL Europe, “I thought the (Baylor receivers) would be a little bit younger feeling, more immature feeling, but I really don’t get that feeling with this group.”
“Obviously, they’re young, but they love football,” he said. “They like going out and doing those things. The key is they’ve got to love meetings, they’ve got to love studying film. They have to love all that stuff, which is a little different from what they’re used to.”
With KD Cannon and Ishmael Zamora leaving early for the NFL, Bicknell’s most experienced receivers are junior Chris Platt and sophomore Blake Lynch, who combined for 69 catches for 971 yards and seven touchdowns last season. But, this is still a deep receiving corps with sophomores Denzel Mims, Jared Atkinson, Tony Nicholson and Pooh Stricklin and freshmen R.J. Sneed and Gavin Holmes.
“You look at the history. I came down here, I think, four years in a row looking at receivers,” said Bicknell, who scouted former first-round draft picks Kendall Wright and Corey Coleman. “There’s a great respect for the way they played. But, we’re not them. We’ve got to make our name, so to speak. We’ve got to do it our own way. So, there’s a great respect for what’s happened, and hopefully people talk about us the way they talk about them.”
Since Bicknell has been in the NFL for the last 10 years, a place a lot of his receivers would like to end up, “whatever he’s telling me, I’m going to listen and take notes and come out here and do it,” Platt said. “If I want to go to the league, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Bears wrap up their third week of camp with practices Friday and Saturday morning before hosting the annual “Meet the Bears” event from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium. The first 5,000 fans will receive an exclusive “Meet the Bears” poster for autographs. Players will sign only the schedule poster in an effort to give as many fans as possible an opportunity to receive signatures, while Coach Rhule will be available to sign one item of the fan’s choice.
Fan Fest activities for children to enjoy include inflatable games, photo opportunity and autograph sessions with the Baylor Soccer and Baylor Volleyball teams on the west concourse.
For football season or single-game ticket information, call the Baylor Athletics Ticket Office at 254-710-1000 or go online at www.baylorbears.com/footballtickets.
BEAR FACTS: In a player vote, seniors Taylor Young, Taion Sells and Brian Nance were given jersey numbers 1, 2 and 5, respectively, the first players to earn the single-digit jersey numbers in the Rhule era.