After years of hard work and betting on himself with a return to school for the 2021 season — a fifth in college — things paid off in a major way for Kenny Pickett, as the University of Pittsburgh star quarterback parlayed that into a Heisman Trophy finalist run and a first-round selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night.
Immediately upon getting the call from Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin, Pickett was emotional, breaking down under the weight of the moment, knowing his childhood dreams came to fruition.
During a phone conference with Steelers media Thursday following his selection, Pickett called the moment one of the best of his life, according to the official transcript from the conversation provided by the team.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 29, 2022
“It’s a lifelong –23 years of hard work to get to this point, and that all came in a phone call,” Pickett said to reporters. “It was probably one of the best moments of my life, and I’m so excited to get started and get to work with the guys who are next door to me my whole career with the Pittsburgh Panthers.”
That Pickett was able to share that moment with his parents, fiancée, and other family and friends was special to watch play out on television. Going from a guy often overlooked throughout his collegiate career as a three-star recruit and an average signal-caller through three years as the starter at Pittsburgh to a Heisman Trophy finalist and first quarterback off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft is quite the transformation, one that parallels current Cincinnati Bengals’ star quarterback Joe Burrow and his journey at LSU.
— Johnny McGonigal (@jmcgonigal9) April 29, 2022
For all players draft though, that phone call that you’re getting a shot in the NFL is hard to describe. Emotions take over. The fact that it was a 412 area code made it all that more special for Pickett.
“I was really excited to obviously get the call,” Pickett said. “I wasn’t too sure when it was going to be. We kind of had an idea, but I saw the 412 number pop up, obviously I got insanely excited for it. It’s an unbelievable organization to be a part of and I can’t wait to get there tomorrow.”
Not only are the Steelers getting a quarterback familiar with the system and the staff in Pittsburgh, they’re getting a great ambassador for the city, one who has given back to his adopted hometown throughout his Pitt career.
“In Kenny Pickett, the Steelers are not only getting a tremendous quarterback, but also one of the finest leaders and toughest competitors I’ve ever been around,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. “I have no doubt he wants to leave his draft party right now and get to work on the playbook with Coach Tomlin and Coach Canada. That’s the type of commitment Kenny displayed at Pitt and will continue to have next door.
“Beyond the field, Kenny is already such a wonderful asset for the Pittsburgh community. He greatly values the importance of giving back as he showed with his NIL efforts. This is just a huge victory for the Steelers and Pitt.”