Artis Hicks grew up in Jackson, Tenn. In late October, that dateline appeared internationally as the place where two skinheads were charged with plotting to assassinate Barack Obama, then a candidate and now the president-elect.

"You're a young African-American child being raised in the South and someone asks, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'" Hicks said. "Maybe you answer, 'I want to be president,' and your parents or grandparents, say, 'That's great, son.'

"They would say that, but they didn't really believe that it was possible.

"And then last night, everyone in the country has a chance to see that scene in Chicago, to see Barack Obama and his wife and their two young girls walk out onto that stage, and in the back of my mind, I thought:

" 'Every parent and grandparent can now look the youngster who gives that answer square in the eye and say, "Yes, you can be president." ' "

Hicks will turn 30 later this month. He's the main backup on the Vikings' offensive line. He was standing in the Winter Park locker room on Wednesday with a smile that was hard to describe.

There was no gloating in that smile. It looked more like pride -- both in Obama and in this country for the verdict rendered on Tuesday.

"We can only imagine the excitement, the emotions, the sense of history that was going through Mr. Obama when he walked out on that stage and heard the cheers from that throng of people,'' Hicks said.

"And then he made that speech. I can't say I got tears. It was more that I was sitting there in disbelief.''

Hicks shook his head in amazement and said: "All that had to be going on inside him, and he was as smooth as a Cadillac.''

He paused and added: "And he's so respectful to everyone. I think that's one of the reasons so many people have been drawn to him.''

Hicks has two grandmothers in Tennessee: Blanche Hicks, 96, and LaFrancias Miller, 88.

"I have talked to them many times about the world they grew up in,'' he said. "I didn't get to call them on Tuesday night, but I'm sure my grandmothers were looking at their TVs and hardly could believe what they were seeing.''

Hicks attended Memphis University. He made a visit to the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King's assassination on April 4, 1968.

"The room is just like it was the day he was assassinated,'' Hicks said. "To know that a great man died there ... it shakes you up. It has taken 40 years, but I think Dr. King's dream finally was realized on Tuesday night.''

Bobby Wade, the Vikings receiver, comes from Phoenix. He also has a grandmother -- Pearl Davenport, 92 -- back in his hometown.

"I called her last night and she was so excited,'' said Wade, laughing. "She was so happy ... she was almost screaming.''

Wade knew he was surrounded in this locker room by many co-workers not happy with an Obama tax plan that would call for them to kick in a few more percentage points of their salary.

Jared Allen was across the room, expressing dismay to a gaggle of reporters that Obama's election could cause him to surrender a bit more of his $74.5 million contract in the years ahead.

"When you're dealing with money, people always are going to try to protect what they have,'' Wade said. "But on the grand scale of things, what this election means in the history of this country -- and, I believe, for the future of this country -- outweighs being asked to sacrifice a little more out of what's still a very nice paycheck.''

As with Hicks, Wade was astounded by the speech Obama was able to deliver in Chicago's Grant Park.

"He didn't stumble once -- not over one word,'' Wade said. "How do you do that? The composure he has shown in all situations in the campaign ... I really think that's going to serve him well as president.

"If something bad happens in this country, God forbid, I feel like I'm seeing a man who has the intelligence and the composure to handle it.''

Wade had another thought, smiled and said: "We have a baby daughter. And when she gets old enough to understand such things, the first president she's going to know will be an African-American. That boggles my mind.''

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •