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The NFL dream has come true for Ocean Township's Kenny Pickett.

On Thursday night, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell walked to the podium in Las Vegas and handed off the card to NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris, who announced the 20th pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

"With the 20th selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select: Kenny Pickett, quarterback, Pittsburgh."

From the Big Red of Ocean Township to the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and now to the Pittsburgh Steelers. His dream is now a reality.

Pickett is the first quarterback from the Shore Conference to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. He joins a distinguished list of Shore Conference standouts to be selected in the first round, most recently former Red Bank Catholic star offensive guard Quenton Nelson in 2018, who went 6th overall to the Colts and is a three-time All-Pro selection. The list also includes Middletown South running back Knowshon Moreno (12th in 2009), Middletown South defensive lineman Jason Peter (14th in 1998), Brick lineman Art Thoms (22nd  in 1969), Matawan defensive lineman Jim Jeffcoat  (23rd in 1983), and Red Bank Catholic running back Donald Brown (27th in 2009).

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback had put together three solid seasons since becoming Pitts' starter during the 2017 season, but his decision to return for his final year of eligibility changed everything. His previous season-best was in 2018 when he threw for 3,098 yards and 13 touchdowns. He blew those numbers out of the water in 2021 by throwing for a school single-season record 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He led Pitt to an 11-3 record that included the ACC Championship with a 45-21 victory over Wake Forest and a berth in the Peach Bowl vs. Michigan State.

Pickett broke almost every Pitt passing record, many of which were held by Hall of Famer Dan Marino. He set new marks for career passing yards (12,203), completions (1,045), total offense (13,112), passing touchdowns (81), 300-yard games (16), 400-yard games (5), and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (20).  He was invited to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist, becoming the first Shore Conference player to ever be a Heisman finalist.

Pickett was named the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and was nominated for multiple season-ending awards, led by the Heisman Trophy. He is the first quarterback in ACC history to have 4,000 yards passing and 40 touchdowns in the first 12 games of the season.  In addition to the Heisman, Pickett was a finalist for the Manning Award (Top QB), Walter Camp Player of the Year, the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, the Maxwell Award, and the Senior CLASS Award.

A 2016 graduate of Ocean Township High School, Pickett was a three-year starter for the Spartans and a two-time All-Shore selection. He threw for 4,630 yards and 42 touchdowns during his high school career. With great size, a big arm, and mobility, Pickett received multiple FBS scholarship offers before signing with Pitt. He graduated early from Ocean and was a mid-year enrollee at Pitt in January of 2017.

It didn't take Pickett very long to put himself in the national spotlight. On Nov. 24, 2017, Pickett, a true freshman making his first career start, threw for 193 yards and a touchdown and ran for 60 yards and a touchdown to lead Pitt to a shocking upset of No. 2 Miami. He was the Panthers' starter from that point on and produced three quality seasons in 2018, 2019, and 2020 with an average of 2,492 yards passing, 13 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He decided to return to Pittsburgh this season rather than declaring for the NFL Draft, and that decision has paid incredible dividends.


MORE: 7 Questions with Kenny Pickett



NFL pros from New Jersey

There are more than 60 active pros with NJ roots.

More than 10 players who made it to the NFL conference championship games this year have NJ ties — and four active NFL quarterbacks were born in the Garden State.

Some of them may even be on your fantasy football team.

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