PITTSBURGH — Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett has established a summer routine in his time with the Panthers.
He works with his private quarterback Tony Racioppi. He participates in Pitt’s voluntary offseason workouts at the practice facility and watches tape of himself and his future opponents.
That routine was interrupted in a big way this summer by a text message with an usual source: Archie Manning, former New Orleans Saints quarterback and patriarch of the legendary Manning family.
Manning invited Pickett to the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodeaux, Louisiana, where he, along with a couple dozen other college quarterbacks, got to work as counselors for the youth players in the camp and also got to work with and pick the brains of Manning and his more-famous sons, two-time Super Bowl champions Eli and Peyton.
“I got a text from Archie Manning, kind of out of the blue,” Pickett said.
“It was a pretty cool thing, a pretty cool experience. … Obviously, was not going to turn that down. I was really excited when I saw the text message.”
Pickett said he was able to establish a relationship with Peyton Manning and really get to pick his brain about the way he prepared for games with film, which was one of Pickett’s areas for improvement this offseason.
“We kind of clicked the first day,” Pickett said. “He saw me the first day. That night, we sat down to dinner and talked for an hour. Really cool experience. I just tried to ask him questions and soak up as much as I can from a guy like that. Really, I think it’ll benefit me in the long run.
“We were just talking about how to prepare, how to watch film. That’s the questions I was asking: how he went through his week, how he streamlined the information he received to bring out onto the field. We talked NFL. … We had a chalk talk thing on Saturday when all the players could ask him questions, anything they wanted for an hour straight. I took probably ten pages of notes.”
The camp also provides a networking experience for the college quarterbacks invited, allowing them to talk shop and share ideas, tips and tricks — even from players on teams that might not usually get along.
“Everyone was really cool there,” Pickett said. “I hung out with [Jake] Fromm (Georgia), [Jake] Bentley (South Carolina), [Adrian] Martinez from Nebraska, JT [Daniels] from USC, [Alex] Hornibrook (Florida State), [Ian] Book (Notre Dame). Jarret [Doege] from West Virginia, I think he just transferred there, he was my roommate. I got along with him really well.”
The combination of rooming with and getting to know some of the best quarterbacks in college football and getting to pick the brain of some of the NFL’s all-time greats has Pickett in a confident spot entering his junior year at Pitt.
“It gives you more confidence,” he said. “It’s different watching other quarterbacks on film and then going out there and competing with them and throwing with them. So I know where I stack up and I know where I’m at.”
Pickett also touched on the following topics.
His relationship with first-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple
“It’s been great. Me and him relate really well. We get along really well. He’s a really smart guy, kind of like Peyton — I just want to soak up as much knowledge as I can from him to benefit my team and me the most on Saturday when we go out there against Virginia and throughout the season.”
Receivers that have stood out in player workouts.
“Tre Tipton really took a big leap this offseason. He was a guy that when Coach Whip came in, we started going through the spring, you saw him take some steps toward the right direction. As it went on, you saw him taking leaps I haven’t seem him take since I’ve been here. He’s an older guy that a lot of guys look up to and he’s going to help us out a lot.”
Gaining some muscle this offseason.
“Since the season, I think I gained about eight pounds. I think I’m at 222 right now. I just want to hang here at this weight the rest of the way. … Just bigger, stronger. Any way you can improve physically. I think I improved explosiveness, speed-wise, too. Obviously strength. Just getting ready for the season.”
A potential future in the NFL.
“That’s down the road. It’s not really what I’m worried about right now. I just focus on learning from those guys. I feel like that’s the best thing that I can do. Obviously, that’s the goal, but I’m focused on this season, being the best player that I can be. If I’m the best player I can be, this team will do well. That’s just really my main focus.”