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Talib brothers’ bullying was problem before youth football coach’s death, officials say

Witnesses say Michael Hickmon was shot after an argument over a late touchdown in scrimmage game

Courtney Jackson
Courtney Jackson (left), president of the Dragon Elite Academy youth team, and Jarmaine Milliner, who played youth football with Michael Hickmon, stand on a football field a week after Hickmon was shot and killed at Lancaster Community Park on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.(Liesbeth Powers / Staff Photographer)

By Jean-Jacques Taylor

It was a meaningless scrimmage between a pair of 9-year-old-and-under football teams from different leagues on a sun-baked, dingy-yellow field at Lancaster Community Park that ended with countless lives forever changed.

Coaches, players, fans and officials will never forget the day they saw a coach dying on the field, his body riddled with bullets.

Michael Hickmon, a 43-year-old father and grandfather, expected to enjoy an afternoon of football with his family. He’d coach his son — Little Mike — and the rest of Dragon Elite Academy players as they prepared for the season, while his wife, Kenyetta, videotaped the game.

The Dragons won the game but Hickmon, whose death last weekend made national headlines, didn’t make it home.

Yaqub Talib, the older brother of former NFL star Aqib Talib, was arrested on a murder charge Monday after allegedly shooting Hickmon during an altercation after the game.

Talib has turned himself in to authorities, where he’s awaiting a bond hearing.

According to the arrest warrant, Lancaster police responded to a shooting at 8:09 Saturday evening. They found Hickmon suffering from gunshot wounds to his chest, back and forearm.

Hickmon was taken to Methodist Central Hospital in Dallas, where he died at 8:47 p.m.

This kind of violence is not happening just in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Violence escalating at youth sporting events

Two weeks ago, shots were fired near a youth football game in Pittsburgh, and in late July, three people in Oakland were wounded by gunfire at a youth football game.

In May, two people in Virginia were wounded at a flag football game and in October 2020, one person was killed and another wounded at a youth football game in Jacksonville, Fla.

“It’s sad. I’ve been around the little league circuit a long time and this is something we could’ve stopped 10 years ago,” said Jarmaine Milliner, who played football with Hickmon as a kid and coached in Deion Sanders’ youth football and baseball organization for years.

“They need to have games at stadiums instead of fields where you just walk up to it. They need metal detectors, and they need real police officers. The leagues can afford it with all of the fees they charge. They need to stop being cheap.”

Aqib Talib, a 36-year-old five-time Pro Bowl player who retired in 2020 after 12 seasons, finances the North Dallas United Bobcats. Aqib’s son plays running back, while Yaqub’s son is a quarterback. Aqib Talib recently joined Amazon TV’s Thursday Night Football as an analyst.

The Talibs have a reputation for talking trash and being confrontational at youth football games, several league officials said.

“If you’ve been around the youth football world you know the Talib guys don’t like to lose and they give everybody a hard time,” said DEA president Courtney Jackson said. “I would call it rambunctious and overly aggressive.

“In the youth football world if somebody is crying about a call you might say stop whining or quit crying. They don’t laugh those things off. It gets personal with them.”

The Talibs’ reputation begs the question why DEA would schedule a scrimmage against an organization known for creating a hostile environment.

“That’s probably the question we’re going to regret for a long period of time,” Jackson said. “In the past, the Talib brothers haven’t given us problems like that.

“You know how somebody can be a bully but they’re not necessarily a bully to everybody.”

Former DEA president Debra Lusk told Jackson she could’ve prevented the shooting, if she had attended the game, because of her relationship with the Talib brothers.

“She used to always talk to them ahead of time,” Jackson said. “Y’all not gonna be doing that (expletive) on my watch, ok?

“They would kind of give that motherly respect to her, so we didn’t have those same kind of issues with them on that kind of level.”

Kerry Lewis, who coaches DEA’s 9-year-old-and-under team, coached with Yaqub Talib, Q to his friends, several years ago.

“It makes it even crazier to actually know the shooter,” he said.

Lewis is exhausted. Mentally and physically. Asked to describe what happened Saturday night, he takes a deep voice. “I’ve told this story soooo many times,” he says in a weary voice.

Then he’s silent for a eight seconds as he summons the strength to speak before finally saying, “I guess an argument broke out … and a man ended up dead.”

Lewis is scheduled to meet with his players on Saturday.

“I’m trying to make a positive but it’s hard,” he said. “I was two feet away from the man when he got shot.”

Shemeddra Thomas let her son stay with a friend to watch another game. Thomas’ friend, she said, noticed Yaqub Talib had a gun and informed league officials.

“She sent my son and a bunch of more kids home before the game,” Thomas said. “Luckily, she had the mindset to do that.”

A sudden melee

Hickmon died after the game ended.

His son’s team, the Dragons, led 13-7 late in the fourth quarter, according to people who were at scrimmage. The Bobcats had apparently stopped the Dragons on 4th-and-1, giving them one last chance to score.

But the Bobcats ruined their chance. The referees penalized the team for taunting after the play and the Dragons retained possession.

Aqib Talib, according to several people, was angry and walked onto the field to argue with the officials, who eventually called the game.

Once the game ended, one of the Bobcats’ coaches took the game ball, which belonged to the Dragons.

Hickmon, who had been handling the down marker as part of the three-man chain gang during the game, went to retrieve it.

He knocked the ball out of the opposing coach’s hand, and then someone kicked the ball. Suddenly, a melee began as several people began attacking Hickmon, who started swinging the down marker.

A 30-second video clip of the incident is all over social media. It ends with a man shouting “Jesus. Jesus,” as he hears five gun shots.

A man wearing a black hoodie, identified as Yaqub Talib in the warrant, can be seen firing a black semiautomatic weapon.

“I’m disappointed but I’m not surprised because I know how Q is,” said Keith Hodge, who met the Talib brothers about eight years ago when his son played youth football.

“Q has always been the big brother bodyguard type. Aqib Talib was always about the football thing and handling the business and Q was always the street one.”

On Thursday, Yaqub Talib’s lawyer, Clark Birdsall, said he had interviewed more than 20 witnesses, and believed Hickmon initiated the argument.

“With everyone out there who had cameras, someone will have a video that shows it,” said Birdsall.

What’s next for the players, league?

The Big XII Youth League and Family Services football league has permanently banned North Dallas United, while making its players eligible to play for any of the league’s other teams. It also banished league general manager Tevar Watson from participating in the league.

The league will resume play this weekend for the 12-and-under and 13-and-under teams. The 9-and-under teams aren’t expected to play for another two weeks.

The league also imposed a new set of league-wide guidelines effective immediately. Among the guidelines:

  • Men are not allowed to have bags of any kind.
  • Police officers are required at all fields.
  • A clear bag policy is in effect for all women and girls. No coolers will be allowed on the field.
  • All fields must have metal detectors at the front gate.

“In the Black community, we’re trying to bring kids to football so they can get school paid for and get away from this stuff,” Lewis said. “A football field should be a safe haven for kids and now I’m dealing with 9-year-olds, who are scared to go back on the football field.

“The kid who scored the touchdown was saying, if I never scored that touchdown my coach would still be here. His parents don’t want him to lose the love for the game, but how can they blame him?”

A date has not been set yet for Hickmon’s funeral, which is being handled by Evergreen Funeral Home in DeSoto.

Jean-Jacques Taylor, a former SportsDay columnist, is the host of JaM Session Podcast which can be heard Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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