There are football players. There are football players who lead by example, those who lead with their voices and those who don’t lead at all. There isn’t really a right way to do it, but when Pat Narduzzi thinks back, he likes the way Kenny Pickett did it.
Pickett, the starting quarterback at Pitt for four seasons who made his first start with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL last weekend, was a leader in every sense of the word. When Pitt returned to the locker room during the halftime intermission, Narduzzi didn’t need to say much.
Pickett would say everything for him.
“Kenny Pickett, he was a leader,” Narduzzi said last Thursday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “Nobody says anything at halftime, it’s me and we’re waiting for someone to step up and we’ll find out. That was nice when Kenny would say, ‘Hey, let’s go.”
It’s the first season since 2017 that Pickett hasn’t played a snap for Pitt. Kedon Slovis, Nick Patti and Nate Yarnell have all seen time this season, with Slovis arriving as a transfer from USC and immediately being named as a captain, and while Slovis himself has emerged as a leader, Narduzzi is always looking for more.
“I would say Kedon, Carter Warren, I said SirVocea (Dennis) — those are the guys that stand out from just stepping up, but we need more of that too,” Narduzzi said.
Slovis, Warren, Dennis and Deslin Alexandre are Pitt’s captains this season, and Pitt has its own Eagles leadership corps — a team-selected group of players from each class level that serves as a sort of board of directors, to put it loosely. But Pitt is constantly looking for more from everyone on the roster.
“That’s a great question because you’re always looking at who are your leaders? Who are your coaches? There’s always guys,” Narduzzi said. “We’re looking. I think SirVocea Dennis is one of them. I think Kedon Slovis is growing with that. We have an Eagles meeting every Friday morning in here, where you guys are privileged enough to come in, we have an Eagles meeting.
“I ask them a couple of questions in there, and Kedon brought up some great points. So, I think if they’re great points, I know everybody else in the room is going, ‘Mmm,’ and then you’ve got freshmen that are young guys that are learning from them.”
When it comes to Pitt’s leaders, whether it’s the captains, the Eagles or whoever, Narduzzi would like to see a little bit of the vocal leadership and the lead by example. The leaders — the Slovis’s and Dennis’s are there — but Narduzzi wants to see a little bit more from the team as a whole.
With a 4-2 (1-1 ACC) record entering the bye week this week before traveling to Louisville to continue with the bulk of the conference schedule, Pitt’s leadership corps has gone through its fair share of hardship. All four captains have gone through their own injury issues, but all four will be needed in a big way as the season continues.
And it doesn’t seem like Narduzzi will be too unhappy if someone steps up and takes the locker room by the reins going forward either. And the younger players on the Eagles will be watching the whole way.