Kenny Pickett says Dan Marino is a role model

MOBILE, Ala. – Kenny Pickett has heard that Dan Marino is coming and he hopes to reconnect with him here at the Senior Bowl.

Pickett broke some of Marino’s passing records in Pittsburgh, and while he’s not quite the prospect Marino once was, they could both finish as first-round quarterbacks.

“He’s a Pitt legend,” Pickett said Tuesday. “He’s a guy who, when I showed up at Pitt, his name was on the wall, his picture was on the wall. My first recruiting trip to Pitt, they had a booth that was all Marino, with all his equipment when he was at Pitt and I have a picture with it. My dad sent it to me towards the end of the season.”

Pickett is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and heavily armed. This season, he had 42 touchdowns and had just seven interceptions.

There are six quarterbacks ranked by ESPN between 20th and 54th overall in the upcoming NFL Draft, and five of them are here in Alabama. Most NFL teams rank Pickett as the highest-ranked quarterback in this draft.

“Everyone knows the year I just had and it was very different from the previous three years, so I just want to show that playing at a high level for 13 games is not luck,” Pickett said. “I want to be the same guy every week and the same guy here every day in Mobile. To be consistent.”

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It seems unlikely the Dolphins will use the 29th overall pick on a quarterback, given they seem invested in Tua Tagovailoa for the 2022 season. But if Pickett were to somehow slip that far – small hand size is a concern – this would not be unprecedented.

After all, Miami once jumped on a Pitt quarterback in 1983.

“I was lucky enough to meet him several times,” Pickett said of Marino. “At the ACC Championship, I had the chance to speak with him. A great role model to have. Coming from your school the career he had, I really want to follow in his footsteps. To make him proud. And all the other Pitt alumni are proud.”

Pitt's Kenny Pickett could be the first quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Marino is now a Dolphins executive. And general manager Chris Grier is surely paying attention to Marino’s assessments of draft-eligible quarterbacks.

According to reconnaissance reports, Pickett has good mobility, a good arm with nice speed, toughness, improved mechanics, and an aggressive sniper mentality.

“We invited Kenny here last year and I thought he was going to be a Day 3 player,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said Tuesday. “This year he was a different player on tape. He’s healthy. He’s come out of his pocket. He knows how to play. He has really good instincts. Arm strength has improved. He kind of reminds me of Joe Burrow in that sense, guys gravitate around him, he’s a leader.

Burrow is considered Pickett’s ceiling and of course it is a remarkable ceiling. Pickett’s skills also reminded some of former Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

Former Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino in a file photo from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Of Burrow, who was once a Manning Camp roommate, Pickett said: “That’s a hell of a comparison. He’s a mobile guy. He’s really pocket-accurate. We can move around and extend some plays and find guys on the pitch.”

One team that needs a quarterback is the Steelers, who picked the 20th. The Panthers and Steelers share a practice facility and Pickett would like to stay in town. Pickett was coached by Mark Whipple, who also once coached Roethlisberger.

“The opportunity to play there would be really amazing,” Pickett said. “Pittsburgh is really my second home. It would be kind of a dream.”

If Pickett were to slip, it would likely be because of concerns over small hand size. Pickett refused to have his hand measured at Mobile.

Pickett says he’s double-jointed and is working on hand stretching exercises to potentially improve the step he plans to take at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“The good news is I played in Pittsburgh,” Pickett said of the ball safety issues. “Anyone who’s been to Pittsburgh knows it’s not the best place to play in October, November, so I’ve had experience playing in bad weather. Some people blow up too much, more than they don’t. actually are.”

It will be interesting to see if Pickett can hold off Malik Willis (Liberty), Sam Howell (North Carolina), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) and Carson Strong (Nevada) as the top quarterbacks here in the Senior Bowl.

Pickett is a New Jersey native who grew up as an Eagles fan.

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett runs for a touchdown against Wake Forest during the first half of the Atlantic Coast Championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Charlotte, North Carolina (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Earlier this season, his decision to deke a defender just when it looked like he was giving up after a scramble prompted an immediate change in NCAA rules.

“I’m recognized on the street as the fake slide guy,” Pickett joked Tuesday. “It’s really cool.”

Pickett thinks it’s also pretty cool to be able to text Dolphins and Pitt legend Dan Marino if he has a question about anything.

“He told me to enjoy the process,” Pickett said. “And work on it. It won’t happen overnight, which I know well. It’s a unique process and I try to enjoy every moment of it.”

Rebecca R. Santistevan