Bears rookie safety Elijah Hicks has respect for, but no fear of, Aaron Rodgers

Hicks, who will start against the Packers because Jaquan Brisker is still in the concussion protocol, is eager to face his fellow Cal alum. “As a player, I respect him; as a competitor, I can’t wait to go against him. I’m trying to pick his [butt] off, like any other quarterback.’’

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Bears safety Elijah Hicks (37) had six tackles against the Jets after replacing injured starter Eddie Jackson last week.

Seth Wenig, AP Photos

In his last three seasons at Cal, Bears rookie safety Elijah Hicks didn’t go one day of practice without thinking of Aaron Rodgers.

‘‘Our locker room is named after him,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘His signature is engraved in every locker.’’

Indeed, the Aaron Rodgers Locker Room at Cal was part of Rodgers’ seven-figure gift to the athletic program in 2019. So any football player couldn’t forget the contribution — on the field and off — that Rodgers made to the program.

Now in the NFL, Hicks represents Rodgers’ legacy in another way: He’s a headstrong kid who respects everyone but is in awe of no one, not even the great Rodgers. So when Hicks plays against the Packers on Sunday at Soldier Field — he’ll start because Jaquan Brisker is still in the concussion protocol — the only souvenir he wants from the future Hall of Fame quarterback is a football thrown from him.

‘‘As a player, I respect him; as a competitor, I can’t wait to go against him,’’ said Hicks, a seventh-round pick. ‘‘I’m trying to pick his [butt] off, like any other quarterback. I’m not thinking anything crazy about it. I just respect him, and I’m preparing to make plays against him.’’

Hicks knows what he’s up against. But he’s undaunted by the prospect of going against a quarterback who has made a career out of embarrassing far better players than he is.

‘‘I’m looking forward to it,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘I’m excited to play, and regardless of who it is, I’ll just try to make plays. And because it’s Aaron Rodgers, I’m trying to dominate even more. I’m trying to get one of those footballs after the game from picking him off; that’s what my goal is.’’

The 5-11, 200-pound Hicks has been a reliable special-teams player in his rookie season and made his NFL debut on defense after veteran Eddie Jackson suffered a foot injury Sunday against the Jets. He played 39 snaps and had six tackles, but he also made one notable error: a missed tackle at the end of Ty Johnson’s 32-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

With Jackson out for the season and Brisker still in the concussion protocol, the Bears will face Rodgers with inexperience safeties. Veteran special-teams ace DeAndre Houston-Carson made his fourth start in seven NFL seasons against the Jets. Hicks will be making his first NFL start.

‘‘It’s a great opportunity,’’ said Houston-Carson, who played a combined 60 snaps in two games against Rodgers and the Packers last season. ‘‘Anytime you get to play against the best, you have to relish those moments.’’

The Bears, in fact, will be without five Week 1 starters against the Packers, with rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon also out with a concussion and linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive end Robert Quinn traded at midseason. That seems like a recipe for disaster against Rodgers.

‘‘It’s a big challenge for us,’’ Houston-Carson said. ‘‘I can see how from an outside perspective that question [would be asked]: ‘Is it tougher that we don’t have guys who were here?’ I get it. But from our perspective, it is extra motivation to know that people are thinking like that.’’

Houston-Carson pointed to the same kind of doubt last season against the Vikings at Soldier Field, a game in which the entire secondary was out and five reserves played. The Bears held Kirk Cousins to 87 passing yards but lost 17-9.

‘‘The fire that those guys had and how they worked and went out there and played, that was inspirational to me,’’ said Houston-Carson, who also missed that game. ‘‘That’s what we’re looking to do.’’

That was Cousins. This is Rodgers — a big difference. But not to Hicks. All he sees is opportunity.

‘‘He’s a Hall of Famer — and rightfully so,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘But all year people have been making plays against him. When you watch him in the film, too, play-to-play, you see him doing uncharacteristic things that he maybe didn’t always used to do. I see opportunities of stopping him. That’s what I’m focusing on.’’

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