13 mars 2024

Pickett de ROUGE et NOIR est prêt à commencer la fête dans la capitale du pays

Since joining the CFL in 2021, Adarius Pickett has asserted himself as one of the most versatile defensive backs in the league, earning an All-Star nod in 2023, and becoming a fan-favourite in Toronto.

The ability to do just about anything on the football field isn’t new. Dating back to high school, Pickett played both sides of the ball (running back on offence, defensive back on defence), while also playing special teams. He was named Bay Area News Group East Bay Football Player of the Year in 2013, helping pave the way for the then four-star recruit to commit to UCLA.

Playing for a then Pac-12 school, Pickett took the field against exceptional talent, including Justin Herbert, Jake Browning, against whom he registered an interception in 2018, Kyler Murray, CeeDee Lamb, and Tony Pollard, just to name a handful. On tape, Pickett was often one of the more noticeable players on the field, even among future NFL superstars.

He says that the exposure to incredible talent week in and week out forced him to look in the mirror and better himself, which is part of the reason why he is a dynamic playmaker today.

“It was always a battle, every week,” Pickett said. “I played against a lot of guys who have gone on to play in the NFL. I look back at what I was able to accomplish, and I was always one of the top players at my position. Being competitive down there allowed me to grow into a better football player, especially from a communication and leadership standpoint.”

The hype that surrounded him at the beginning of his collegiate career at UCLA didn’t last, and 254 names were called at the 2019 NFL Draft, but not his. Despite leading the nation among defensive backs in tackles with 123, and earning second-team All-Pac-12, Pickett’s phone didn’t ring until after the draft.

He inked a free agent deal with the Chicago Bears after the draft, but instead of stability, the contract seemed to only set into motion a wild ride. The Berkeley, California was released before training camp started in Chicago, but he was signed only a few weeks later by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Once again, the contract didn’t signal any stability, as Pickett was waived on August 31st, before a second stint on the practice roster for a couple of weeks at the end of September.

“I was in a tough position with the Chargers,” Pickett explained, remembering a conversation he had with the General Manager, where he was told there weren’t plans to sign him. “It was a numbers thing. When you look at the stats and special teams contributions, you’d have thought I had done enough to make the team, but it didn’t transpire.”

In December, the New England Patriots came knocking, and after the season, he signed a reserve/future contract with the team. Yet again, it didn’t last, and he was released before camp once more.

“The pandemic took away some opportunities that I felt would have propelled me forward in my NFL career, but everything happens for a reason,” Pickett said. “I got to coach at UCLA, and I learned a lot that year, and I feel like it made my game and thought process evolve. It was like a little cheat code.”

With tape like Pickett produced, it was only a matter of time before someone saw the potential he possessed, and in 2021, he signed with the Montreal Alouettes, and in 2022, Pickett broke out.

Although his position is listed as sam linebacker, it takes a special athlete to play the position. They are asked to do so much, but Pickett sees plenty of similarities between sam linebacker and strong safety, which he played in college.

“In college, I had to blitz, and I had to cover in space,” Pickett said. “For whatever reason, in the CFL, they call it a linebacker, but I’m basically a defensive back. Some people say it’s the hardest position to play besides quarterback, and I believe that, because you have to do so much.”

The upward trajectory continued in 2023 with the Toronto Argonauts, making him one of the marquee free agents heading into 2024. With all kinds of different options, Pickett chose Ottawa just as much as the REDBLACKS wanted him, and it’s because together, they see championship-winning potential.

“Ottawa was a few good players away from having a really special team,” Pickett assessed. “They’ve always been tough to play against. I looked at who was in different positions – Coach Dyce being the head coach, and Barron Miles being the Defensive Coordinator – I felt like I could come over and help take this team to the next level.”

The familiarity with Miles was also a big reason why Pickett chose Ottawa. The pair worked closely together in Montreal, and the trust between the two of them is strong.

“He’s seen my game evolve over the past few years,” Pickett said. “I know that he will utilize me in a way that will allow me to maximize my own game, whether that’s me coming off the edge, dropping back in coverage, or having me in the box. [I know] he sees it all from my experience working with him.”

When he finally gets his brand-new jersey, it will be crested with the number six.

“It was my first number, and the ‘pick six’ has become part of my identity,” Pickett said. “Six is part of who I am now, and I appreciate my teammates and respect them for allowing me to come over and have it.”

Though previously occupied by Damon Webb, he generously left the number to the REDBLACKS’ newest quarterback, Dru Brown, but when he heard how important it was to Pickett, he had no hesitation to give it up for the second time.

“I understand where I stand, and I want guys to know that just because you sign for ‘X’ amount of dollars, that doesn’t mean anything to me,” Brown said. “It’s important to Pickett, and I don’t want to stand in his way.”

The league’s eighth-ranked free agent is coming to Ottawa to win football games, and he’s excited to do just that for this fan base.

“It’s going to be an exciting year, and I hope they’re ready to party with me,” Pickett said. “Last year, I became known as the ‘party starter,’ so I hope they’re ready to come out and turn up. I can’t wait to get out there and get some wins for them, they deserve that.”