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Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett named ACC Player of the Year

JERRY DiPAOLA
The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett warms up before an NCAA college football game against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, who hit the historic aerial milestones of 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns this season, was named ACC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year on Wednesday morning. 

The announcement was made on the ACC Network.

Pickett, who received 52 of 64 first-place votes in balloting for POY and 54 for Offensive POY, is the second Pitt product honored as the conference's top player — overall and on offense — in the school's nine years as an ACC member. He joins running back James Conner (2014).

Past ACC POYs include several who have distinguished themselves in the NFL, including quarterbacks Jameis Winston of Florida State (2015) and Trevor Lawrence of Clemson (2021), who were the first overall choices in the draft. Other past ACC POYs were N.C. State's Philip Rivers (2002), Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson (2006), Boston College's Matt Ryan (2007), Clemson's Deshaun Watson (2015) and Louisville's Lamar Jackson (2016, '17).

ESPN NFL Draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have ranked Pickett as the top quarterback in the 2022 class.

Pickett's story dates all the way back to the end of the 2017 season when he made his only start in the final game and engineered a 24-14 upset of then-No. 2 Miami.

Since then, he has been Pitt's starting quarterback over four seasons, leading the Panthers into the 2018 ACC Championship Game, a feat he will duplicate Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., against Wake Forest.

He could have bolted for the NFL after last season, but he bet on himself and might have turned from a fifth-round pick in 2020 into a first-rounder.

Presently, he stands second in the ACC in career passing yards, with 12,050 to Rivers' 13,484. He is one short of Winston's single-season touchdown record of 41.

Pickett has re-written the Pitt record books, vaulting into first place all-time in yards, touchdowns (79, tied with Dan Marino) and passing yards in a season (4,066). He is just the third quarterback in ACC history to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, joining Winston and Watson.

An All-American candidate, Pickett is a finalist for four national awards — the Davey O'Brien Quarterback, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm, Maxwell and Senior CLASS.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi is convinced that Pickett should be among the finalists invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony Dec. 11 in New York City.

"I expect Kenny to be in New York," he said.

Years ago, after spending the 2003 season as defensive coordinator at Miami (Ohio) on a team that included Ben Roethlisberger, Narduzzi vouched for Roethlisberger's future stardom in the NFL.

"I called a good friend who was at the New York Giants," Narduzzi said. "Coaching with Ben Roethlisberger, I said, 'This guy is the guy. He's a pro quarterback.' And he's had a Hall of Fame career here with the Steelers. I feel the same way about Kenny."