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A memory of a lifetime for Pickett

Leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft, Steelers players will be sharing their Draft Day Memories, from the time they went to the NFL Scouting Combine, through the moment they were drafted. In this installment, quarterback Kenny Pickett gives his take.

Kenny Pickett - 2022 NFL Draft - 1st Round

The combine was a great experience. It was really special. I was hoping I'd have that experience after the year prior seeing guys not be able to. I think that's a huge piece of the process that goes into being drafted and being able to talk to a lot of teams in the interview process and then obviously go on the field and they can see you in person. I was definitely grateful to have that experience.

It's a lot different taking part in the combine than watching it on television. Probably the biggest thing that stuck out to me is when you put your hand on the line for the 40, how quiet it is in the arena. It was crazy. Throwing was cool with all the other guys on the field too, throwing to some top receivers from across the country that were in the draft. It's definitely an awesome experience.

It's kind of a mayhem experience being at the combine. You go to the hospital, and you have everything that you ever had injured get looked at with an MRI or an x-ray. I was at the hospital for I think a total of nine hours during my time there. And you're running back and forth between interviews and meetings. At the end you have the physical interview, which is on the field. So, it's a pretty crazy four days.

It was the biggest job interview in my life for sure. Having the interview process, just showing your football IQ and how much of the game you know. Then obviously the physical interview on the field, with millions of people watching on TV. I think it's one of the more unique job interviews that people can go through.

Take a look at Kenny Pickett's first photoshoot as a Pittsburgh Steeler

There are so many interviews you do at the combine. There are differences in teams, differences in coaches, personalities, informal versus formal. Some coaches and teams want to get to know you, some coaches and teams put you on the board or put you through a film session. There's a lot of things that go into it. You just want to be as prepared as you can be for whatever they throw you.

The only interview I had with the Steelers at the combine was with Coach (Mike) Sullivan. I just talked with Coach Sully in an informal setting and that interview was more getting to know me as a person. I think they were pretty familiar with myself from a football standpoint. I just didn't have a lot of contact with the coaches. With the Steelers I only had that one interview with Coach Sully at the combine. They kept it real low key. I had a feeling they liked me, but I couldn't tell by the way I was going through the process of the interviews and everything. It was funny how it all played out.

After the combine it was preparing for my pro day. The pro day at Pitt I would say was maybe a little bit more relaxed than the combine just because it's a one day thing. You scripted the routes that you're throwing. You've been training with the receivers for a week or two weeks to get ready and have the timing that you need on certain things. It's definitely cool to have your family there watching you perform. It was a special day. I had my teammates there as well. Everyone stayed to watch me throw, which was great. And you see a lot of old friends and old coaches and to able to go out there and perform in front of everybody for one more time, that was really cool.

It's obviously a big piece of the process and you don't want to undermine how important it is, but at the same time I was having throwing sessions with those guys since I first got to Pitt. You've been doing it for so long with them it was second nature. You are just doing it in front of a bigger audience. It was definitely cool to have that experience with those guys.

I knew there were a lot of people there from the Steelers there. There were lot of personnel from across the league that were there. It was really cool to have that with my teammates. And everyone got a chance to show what they could do in front of a lot of eyes is great.

The quarterback coach I work with, Tony Racioppi, he's done a lot of pro days with guys. Throughout this process we went through every throw that I wanted to make and what I wanted to do to showcase my abilities. He probably gave me the best advice throughout on what to do and how to handle it. We have been having pro days every day I have had a throwing session. I have been doing it since I was seven years old. You have done if for so long. He said I am doing what I have been doing for a long time, so just go let it rip and have fun with it.

The next step for me was the draft. It was such a memory I'll have for the rest of my life. And it was incredibly special to have everyone there and be home in New Jersey, have all my family and friends and coaches, that came out to watch it with us and be there for that moment. I didn't really know where I was going to go. I had a feeling the range was 16 to 20 and I ended up going to that Steelers at 20, which was awesome. And I was staying in my second home. So it was really special.

The wait to get the phone call is brutal for sure. You have no clue. It's out of your control. All athletes like to be in control and have the ball in their hand. And at that time you can't have the ball in your hand. You just sit on the couch waiting for your phone to ring. It was stressful. I remember I got an alert on my phone that my odds were I was going to Houston. I never talked to Houston in the process. So we had really no clue what was going on. There's a lot of smokescreens and smoke and mirrors going on with teams that were trying to figure out who they were going to pick. But I think I definitely ended up in the right spot.

You can't really describe what it's like. I've been working my whole life to get to that moment. I was just overcome with emotion, and I don't even remember much. I just remember hearing Coach (Mike) Tomlin's voice, and I don't remember much else after that. I was just kind a wreck. You just think back to all the time and effort you put in to getting there. It was special. It was awesome.

I had all my grandparents there, almost all my coaches that I had throughout my career, were there. And it was it was special. People who were there from the very beginning. And obviously my parents who believed in me from day one. Thinking back to Ocean Township, my earlier days, no one thought I was going to be at Pitt playing. And I'm sure a lot of people didn't expect me to be where I'm at now playing. So those that believed in me were there and it was it was really special to have that moment with everybody.

Outside of myself, my mom and dad were the most emotional. They've been there from day one, and I wouldn't be here without them. They were a part of that journey. I was emotional. I didn't care. I didn't care at all. I knew I was going to be because I would tear up in anticipation of the moment, just knowing what it would feel like and thinking about it. I've been dreaming about looking at my phone and getting that call on draft night. You can't really describe it. You've been chasing that goal and finally achieve it and that moment was awesome.

When they announced it on TV, you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was waiting to hear that. What Franco (Harris) did and how special he made it, he made it that much better. And then the place erupted once he broke the news. It was like my head just dropped.

That's something I will remember for so many things, including Franco. Being able to share that with him and the fact that he was there to announce my name and how passionate and special he made it was awesome. And then the game after he passed against the Raiders, the game we won in the two-minute drive that was dedicated to him. I don't think you can write a better story.

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