Arriving on a nonstop flight from his native New Jersey, Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett was all smiles as he stepped off the jet bridge Friday into Pittsburgh International Airport.
Minutes later, he donned a Steelers hat and posed next to the iconic figure of Hall of Fame football player Franco Harris—coincidentally, the man who announced his selection during the NFL Draft the night before.
“I was really speechless. I couldn’t really form any words after I got that call for a few minutes,” Pickett told Blue Sky News. “But it was unbelievable to spend that moment with my family, and all my coaches, and friends. It was great.”
Pickett’s journey in Western Pennsylvania began in 2017 as a freshman for the University of Pittsburgh. The next season he emerged as the starting quarterback, a role he played until the end of his college career.
“We circled the globe, or at least the United States, exploring and researching and it’s funny that we ended up with the guy from next door,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told media on draft night. “We are excited about him.”
In 2021, Pickett used an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the shortened 2020 season, to return as Pitt’s quarterback.
“Kenny developed and had a great senior year,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told media on draft night. “It was a good move for him to stay in school.”
Last season, Pickett led Pitt to its first ACC title, besting Wake Forest. It was during that game that Pickett broke the school touchdown record held by NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino, who had 79.
Pickett finished his collegiate career as Pitt’s all-time leader in passing yards (12,303), pass completions (1,045), total offense (13,112), and passing touchdowns (81). He had 20 career rushing touchdowns, also a new standard for Pitt quarterbacks.
However, he is known for more than football in Pittsburgh. Pickett established himself as a philanthropist under new name, image and likeness rules that allowed college athletes to be paid for endorsements and other marketing endeavors.
The quarterback branded his own logo and established a partnership with local companies PGT Trucking and Ithen USA to sell t-shirts for charitable causes. According to Pittsburgh Sports Now, all the proceeds go to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.