That fall, Hickey advanced to play in the NFL with both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Rams, then missed the next three years while serving as a U.S. Navy gunnery officer during World War II. Upon his return, he was part of the 1945 Rams championship squad, then shifted with the team to Los Angeles to play from 1946 to 1948. During his first season back, he also married his high school sweetheart, Cecelia Surina.
NFL coaching career
On February 1, 1964, he joined the Cowboys as an assistant coach, serving for two years. He had been a strong candidate to become head coach of the expansion Atlanta Falcons, but the post was given to Green Bay assistant Norb Hecker on January 26, 1966. Just six weeks later, Hickey resigned his coaching position and asked to join the Cowboy scouting staff.
Hickey spent the next two decades as a Cowboys scout and watched with pride when his team dusted off his old offense in 1975, using it only in specific situations, but popularizing a strategy that remains to this day.
On an individual level, he was elected to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1968, while his son, Mike, followed him into the world of scouting, working for the New England Patriots and New York Jets.