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‘Train Like a Pro’: Pitt WR Signee Zion Fowler Has Done All He Can to Prepare for Success



There aren’t many NFL players who would read direct messages from high schoolers, let alone invite them out to throwing sessions.

And I guess it’s true there likely aren’t many high schoolers who would have the courage — and faith in their own ability — to send such a message to one of their idols. Those Pitt guys are just built different, I guess.

Fowler — a 6-foot-1, 185-pound wideout from Jersey City, New Jersey — signed with Pitt in December but didn’t enroll early. It hasn’t stopped his development though. He’s approached his last offseason as a high schooler with a professional mindset.

Whether it’s been his approach to mobility through stretching, improving his hands through consistent repetition or studying film — coverages and defensive back movement — from a new standpoint, Fowler has prepared as if he were an NFL player. It’s as pro style as the offense he’ll be joining at Pitt.

But it’s hard to get more pro-style than working with an actual pro. The starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers in this case.

When Fowler saw that Pickett was working out in New Jersey, he knew he couldn’t pass up a chance to get some work together. A quick DM, including an exchange of phone numbers, led to two hours of good work. And Fowler loved every second of it.

“It felt really, really good, honestly,” Fowler told PSN. “I really feel like it’s just the start of what’s gonna happen in the near future — God willing — when I make it to the NFL. So, it’s just a dream come true catching from a starting NFL quarterback.”

Fowler wanted to work with as many college and NFL guys as possible before arriving at Pitt next month — with a move-in date set for May 13 — in order to be prepared as possible.

I don’t know if there was anyone to help prepare him for life as a Pitt Panther than Pickett — who grew into both a Pitt legend and first round selection in the NFL Draft over five seasons in Pittsburgh. Their Pitt careers obviously will never meet, but for one afternoon in New Jersey, the past and future collided on the field.

“Obviously he’s a Pitt quarterback, carrying that Pitt tradition, so just getting that feel for him really allowed me to take my game to the next level,” Fowler said. 

Fowler learned a lot catching passes from Pickett but also from just talking off the field. Pickett has been there and done it. He’s grown from a three-star recruit into an NFL quarterback at Pitt. It’s the same path that Fowler wants to follow.

Pickett has shown him that it’s about paying attention, learning the offense like the back of your own hand and making sure you don’t forget it. Once you’re able to start stacking those little wins, it’s easy.

“Me and him, we have great conversations,” Fowler said. “Kenny’s like my older brother. Even when we were at the field, we were just bonding and getting ready for that Pitt offense.”

Fowler has been out to check out Pitt’s practices this spring, and since he was on spring break at St. Peter’s Prep last week, he was able to spend the whole week in Pittsburgh watching the spring game prep. It wasn’t just hanging out with new teammates. It was a business trip.

“I love the atmosphere,” Fowler said. “I just really can’t wait to be here. We have a great receiver corps — great freshman receiver corps as well. There’s a lot of guys in the receiver room that are really talented. I just can’t wait to get to work.”

There’s an element of explosion in Fowler’s game, which has led to highlight reel dunks and soaring catches over defenders, and that’s exactly what Pat Narduzzi sees in his new wideout — a guy who can go up and make contested catches.

As a senior at St. Peter’s, Fowler showcased it. He reeled in 729 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 36 receptions, often going up and taking the ball away from opposing defensive backs. But he was a return man, too. He’s a pure athlete. And he’s been a successful athlete.

It’s that success that he plans to bring to Pittsburgh now. Along with a high-flying style of play that complements a young, exciting group of wideouts in the class.

“I see ourselves having a lot of success this upcoming season, and the upcoming seasons in the near future, and I’m just excited to be with those guys and get to work.

“I’m coming really soon. I’m gonna score a lot of touchdowns — that’s the goal in the near future — and I’m just ready to create my legacy at Pitt.”

With Fowler, Kenny Johnson, Izzy Polk and Lamar Seymore rounding out a large receiver group from the class of 2023, Pitt has already seen the early returns from Polk and Seymore. And while Fowler and Johnson won’t have the benefit of the spring season, both will arrive with high expectations.

There’s a new age of Pitt wide receivers on the way, and Fowler — who turned down interest from Mississippi State and Nebraska late in the cycle — is excited to be a part of it.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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