PITTSBURGH — Wednesday, at least 18 high school athletes will sign their National Letter of Intents with the University of Pittsburgh.
They’ll join the five members of the Class of 2017 that have already enrolled — defensive end Deslin Alexandre, quarterback Max Browne, punter Kirk Christodoulou, offensive tackle Jerry Drake and quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Signing early is something that is an option for many college freshmen. Some do it to help learn a new position, add size and strength with extra time in a college training program, compete for a job during spring ball or adjust to collegiate academics — just to name a few.
Others, like Pitt commit Todd Sibley, attend high schools that don’t permit student to graduate early. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has said that he doesn’t push a lot of athletes toward enrolling early, preferring that they get the chance to attend prom and walk with their classes as high school graduates.
Of Pitt’s early enrollees, Pickett had a very specific reason for wanting to enroll early: he’s the quarterback. He felt that to be the best leader he could be, he needed to get a head start on getting himself introduced to the team, the school and the city.
“Helping the other freshmen out when they get here and being the leader of my class pointing the guys in the right direction, that’s going to be huge for me,” Pickett said after enrolling. “I’m trying to get a good base on academics before the summer starts.”
From the shuttle bus schedule to class schedules, Pickett hopes to have it all down pat before the rest of the class gets on campus — and that’s not including the rest of the city, a place that that Ocean Township, New Jersey resident has enjoyed his first few days.
“The city is great,” he said. “Walking around the streets, the people are great — very genuine people. Then you get into the facility and you get to meet the people and the support staff and players and they’re all great people, too. They’re positive, they shake your hand, smiling. It’s just a positive energy and positive vibe that you want to be around. That’s what drove me here.”
Of course, there are on-the-field benefits to Pickett enrolling early, as well. He’ll get to spend a semester working with the team’s wide receivers and get a head start on battling for position on the 2017 depth chart.
With the graduation of starter Nate Peterman and backup Manny Stocker, the top spots seem to be up for grabs, with Browne, a graduate transfer, being the top option as a starter coming. But there’s also going to be competition for who will be the primary backup, with redshirt sophomore Ben DiNucci and redshirt freshman Tom MacVittie vying for position with Pickett.
“I’m excited for the spring, getting into a college system and getting into the weight room, too,” he said. “I love being there.”
Pickett will also get a head start on learning a new offense — as soon as he finds out who he’ll be learning it under. Pickett was recruited by tight ends coach Tim Salem and outgoing offensive coordinator Matt Canada, and he said “it was a surprise to everybody” when Canada left, but he never wavered from his commitment to Pitt, citing his strong relationship with head coach Pat Narduzzi and his trust that he’ll find the right man to lead Pitt’s offense.
“I knew he was the guy that I knew I wanted to play for,” Pickett said.