Nicks graduated from North Salinas High School in Salinas, California in 2003. Before transferring to Nebraska, Nicks played at New Mexico State and then at Hartnell College, a community college in Salinas. Following the 2005 season at Hartnell, Nicks was rated the No. 7 junior college prospect from the state of California by JCGridiron.com. During his time at Nebraska, Nicks was known for his problems on and off the field, but in 2010, Nicks returned to Lincoln to apologize to head coach Bo Pelini for his behavior during his time at Nebraska.
In his rookie season he replaced Jamar Nesbit in the starting lineup after Nesbit violated the league substance abuse policy. His play exceeded expectations and Nicks finished his rookie year playing in all 16 games and starting 13. After starting all 16 games in 2009 and the Saints three post-season games, he went into the 2010 season as the starting left guard. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2011 and was a first team All-Pro selection in 2011.
Nicks signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on March 14, 2012. On October 30, 2012, Nicks was placed on injured reserve with a toe problem requiring surgery. He had not missed a game since joining the NFL.