The George Pickens Show: The story behind the Steelers’ freakish and viral rookie WR

From the moment George Pickens was introduced to the NFL universe, a balaclava draped over his bowed head in a viral video from draft day, he’s been a walking meme. A 6-foot-3, 200-pound GIF with a 77 3/8-inch wingspan. A human retweet with a speed of 4.47.

Twitter calls him “HIM” or “NFL Youngboy.” His friends in Hoover, Alabama nicknamed the catcher “The Issue.” And if you didn’t know any better, you’d think his X-rays really do show the dog in him.

Among rookie receivers, Pickens enters Week 10 fifth in receptions (26) and yards (338). But the statistics tell only part of the story. With a physical advantage in his game and a catch radius that feels like a Madden miss, Pickens leads the team in viral moments.

There’s the back fade in Miami for his first NFL TD. Pancakes block against the Lions, Seahawks and Jets. And who could forget the one-handed hold in Cleveland?

Still can’t get over this George Pickens catch 🔥#PITvsCLE on Prime VideoAlso available on NFL+

— NFL (@NFL) September 23, 2022

“What he’s doing on the field is art,” said Jason Kervin, Pickens’ offensive coordinator at Hoover High School. “It’s like the difference between a singer and an artist. He is not singing songs. He’s putting on a performance.

“When he’s on the field, it’s ‘The George Pickens Show.'”

The funny thing is that Pickens impresses almost everyone except himself. The first touchdown of his NFL career? “Routine.” Where does the Odell Beckham-style catch rank against the Browns’ range on their list of best catches? “Probably like seven,” Pickens said.

You can search for Pickens’ Georgia highlights on YouTube or watch his high school Hudl tape. But when you ask anyone who has ever coached or played alongside Pickens, you’ll find a long list of people claiming to have witnessed the biggest catch that (almost) anyone has ever seen.

“He just happened to make the best catch I’ve ever seen,” rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett said two weeks ago. “I’ve never seen a catch like that in my life.”

When Pickens slipped out of the first round and entered the Steelers’ lap with the 52nd pick in April’s draft, Pittsburgh’s receiving room was already one of their deepest position groups. But the Steelers nabbed Pickens anyway, believing he was much better than the 11th receiver off the board.

In doing so, Pittsburgh changed its plan at the post. The ripple effect culminated last week with the trade of Chase Claypool, a talented playmaker in his own right who totaled 11 touchdowns as a rookie, to Chicago for a second-round pick.

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The move reaffirmed the faith that the front office has in Pickens. It also paved the way for more targets for the rookie, just days after he had a catchless outing in Philadelphia, his quietest game of the season.

Now, the wide receiver whose style of play is seemingly crafted for both the AFC North and the social media era has more opportunities and expectations in his quest to prove he’s the steal of the draft.

The first steps of a promising football future began in the playgrounds and backyards of Hoover, a large suburban town on the outskirts of Birmingham.

Pickens’ brother, Chris Humes, was seven years older and already beginning to develop into a tight defensive back who would eventually play for the CFL’s Arkansas State, Las Vegas Raiders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Seeking to refine his technique, Humes recruited his brother to race routes. One by one. Brother against brother. High school student versus elementary student. No quarterback. without a ball Pickens would line up opposite Humes. On Pickens’ first move, both players ran to a spot.

“I couldn’t get off the line,” Pickens recalled to The Athletic. “He always pushed. I couldn’t win.”

Those representatives made Pickens the competitor he is today. He developed a tough style of play that could turn 50-50 balls into 80-20 balls, or a routine block into a highlight.

“That’s actually why I play the way I do,” Pickens said. “I realize I have to start lifting weights or do something. I must be faster. I have to lift weights. I have to do something to beat him.”

George Pickens at the Under Armor All-America Game in January 2019. (Kim Klement/USA Today)

That mindset is a perfect fit at Hoover High, a prep powerhouse with an Under Armor endorsement deal and a glittering facility that would make some Division II programs envious.

In 2016, freshman coach Jeff Haley told varsity staff that Pickens might be the greatest player to ever come through the program. Soon everyone saw what Haley did.

Hoover developed more than two dozen defensive backs into Division I athletes under coach Josh Niblett from 2008 to 2021. Defense is the school’s calling card. In 10th grade, Pickens was a JV player leading a scout team against varsity starters.

“When I say he was destroying our defense on the scouting team, that’s not hyperbole,” Kervin said. “He was just making plays every day, like a 10th grader, and that was one of the best Hoover defenses we had.

“It didn’t take a well-trained eye to see that George Pickens was special.”

Before long, Pickens was a household product in recruiting circles, committing to Auburn as a sophomore. But the buzz reached a fever pitch after a match that was impossible to ignore.

In the regular season finale of Pickens’ junior year, Hoover faced IMG Academy, a high school football blue blood. Two drives inside, Hoover was already in a 0-14 hole. Kervin stopped thinking about plays and started thinking about players. More specifically, Pickens.

The offensive coordinator said he called Pickens four or five consecutive backfades until, finally, they were celebrating the last one in the end zone. Pickens finished with double-digit receptions and three touchdowns against some of the best defensive backs in the nation, now including Jaguars safety Andre Cisco and 2021 Browns first-round cornerback Greg Newsome.

“Everybody knew from that moment on who George Pickens was,” Kervin said.

But despite all the great catches Pickens made in that game, it’s an inning his head coach remembers. The Buccaneers threw an interception. From across the field, with virtually no angle, Pickens ran to the goal line and dove to make the tackle at the 1-yard line.

“That’s probably the best thing that describes it best,” Niblett said. “When a play breaks down, no matter what his job or his opportunity is, he wants to be the best player on the field at that moment.”

Each game that followed produced one highlight after another.

There was the punt return against Spain Park, when Pickens broke up no fewer than seven tackles, which Niblett calls “one of the best punt returns in high school history.”

There was the ridiculous one-handed catch over a corner at St. John’s College High in Washington, D.C. There was a time when Pickens knocked five Hewitt defenders out of their shoes.

Still, those who know him best say the best catches have come in practice.

“It is not by accident. It’s not luck. And it’s no accident,” Niblett said. “The boy works to catch all the balls in all possible ways and then twist his body in all possible ways. It’s not like he decided to make that catch today. He has visualized that.”

Beyond catches, coaches came to respect the physical style of play of a boy who grew up pushed by his older brother.

In a rivalry game in his senior season against Vestavia Hills, Pickens reversed the field after a route and leveled a cornerback, straight to an outside linebacker, taking out two defenders, to drive his fullback another 20 yards.

Later that season against Mountain Brook, Pickens found a DB 40 yards from scrimmage and blocked it completely off the field…and onto the Mountain Brook cheerleaders.

Miles Holcomb, who coached Hoover’s quarterbacks and receivers, still replays that video frequently to illustrate how the best player on the field can change the game even when he doesn’t get the ball.

“George was never a guy who stopped before the whistle,” Holcomb said. “That was something that I respected a lot, because he was so good and so athletically talented that he could have taken some snaps, and no one would have noticed. But he never did.

While Pickens was a fierce and determined competitor on Friday nights, off the field, people gravitated to his fun-loving personality and easy smile. Holcomb affectionately calls him a “fool”.

“It was almost larger than life,” Holcomb said. “But he never acted like that. People just wanted to talk to him. His personality was so contagious.”

Niblett joked with Pickens: “Now, I need you to run fast on this route.”

“Scared fast or fast?” Pickens would respond with a smile.

The moment that best sums up Pickens’ personality off the field was in the weight room. He was in the middle of a set of pull-ups when he unexpectedly stopped. Wait a second.

“He reached into his sweatpants and made a cheese curl,” Kervin said, still laughing years later. “He eats it. Then he jumps back up and does his pull-ups.”

After Pickens helped the Buccaneers to back-to-back state titles in 2016 and 2017, rated him the seventh-best recruit in the country (No. 1 in Alabama) and the second-best receiver. Offers poured in, hoping to convince Pickens of the Auburn commitment he made as a sophomore.

Prior to Pickens’ senior season, Kervin was at an offseason camp at Auburn when then-Tigers offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey approached.

“He was like, ‘Hey man, do you think George is going to stay with us on his engagement?'” Kervin recalls. “I was like, ‘Hell, Chip, I don’t know if he’s staying with us, man. You’re on your own.’

“Everyone was recruiting him in his senior year (in high school). IMG wanted it. A lot of schools in our area wanted him.”

On national signing day in 2019, Pickens narrowed his list to four: Auburn, LSU, Tennessee and Georgia.

Pickens said he woke up the morning of the signing still not entirely sure where he was going. At the last minute, he revealed the biggest upset of the day when he passed Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs.

“That’s probably the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Pickens said.

Before Pickens even set foot in Sanford Stadium for a game, he was already making his presence felt with a standout catch that lives on in YouTube immortality.

At one of his first spring football practices…well, trying to describe the play doesn’t do it justice. Just look.

That was just an appetizer. As a freshman, Pickens led the Bulldogs in TD receptions with eight. He capped the season with 12 receptions for 175 yards and a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor to earn MVP honors.

A freshman season that put Pickens on draft boards also produced a blemish on Nov. 30, 2019 that some teams would blame him for years.

He was suspended by the Bulldogs coaching staff for the first half of the regular season finale against Georgia Tech. The catcher told The Athletic the punishment was for skipping tutoring sessions.

“My grades were good,” Pickens said. “It was just kind of a tutoring check. … I would miss them.”

In the second half, Pickens quickly made his presence felt. He drew a pass interference flag on his first drive to set up a touchdown and another on the next drive. He led off the next drive with a 41-yard touchdown drive.

With the game out of control, tempers flared between Pickens and Georgia Tech defensive back Tre Swilling. Their jaws dropped after several plays, with Pickens saying Swilling shoved him from behind in an instant.

“That’s when I realized the team was trying to get under my skin,” he said.

Then the latent tensions boiled over. Pickens and Swilling Tangled. It appeared that Swilling connected with an open hand to Pickens’s face mask. Pickens retaliated by throwing two punches, then grabbed Swilling by the mask and dragged him into a padded wall behind the end zone.

“I was just blocking the guy, and he hit me in the face, right?” Picken said. “No flags, too. And two shots to the face, too. … People don’t like to be exploited, to be embarrassed.”

Pickens was sent off. Then the magnitude of the moment began to sink in. The SEC championship was the following week. By rule, Pickens would be suspended for the first half due to the ejection.

“When I was escorted to the locker room, I realized and I was like, ‘Oh, now we have to play LSU next week,’” Pickens said.

In a sport based on physicality and passion, fights happen. In August, Aaron Donald wore two helmets during a training camp melee with the Bengals.

But for Pickens, that moment — and an incident in which he threw water on Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano — contributed to whispers of character concerns, a vague label his high school coaches strongly dispute.

“I never understood that,” Holcomb said. “I have never been on any stage around him where I felt like he had any malicious intent towards anyone.”

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers say Pickens never crossed the line, never even got close to it. He has not been booked for personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct this season.

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“This guy is doing everything we asked him to do,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “He is playing soccer. Many people have incidents in the university environment. I’m certainly not going to hold that against him. We did our due diligence where we felt completely comfortable with his character. He has shown it since he has been here.”

Regarding the idea that some have questioned Pickens’ character, Tomlin added, “I kind of bothered about that.”

Two years after Pickens’ practice sack started his college enthusiasm train, another spring football moment threatened to derail his career.

Pickens was running a basic slant when he collapsed on the grass, a torn ACL in his right knee. For one of the first times in his life, Pickens began to realize that football was not forever.

“Just be in the world of football for your time,” Pickens said. “When they say it’s going to be over, I never thought like that until I tore my ACL.”

For many NFL athletes, the injury would have meant the end of their college career. Not Pickens. Hours after surgery, he was set to return in time for a Georgia championship race.

“In my hotel room, I would be jumping on one leg trying to cut myself,” Pickens said. “He wasn’t even completely fine. I just got out of surgery. Even my doctor at school said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ You’re bouncing around and you’ve torn your anterior cruciate ligament.’”

Pickens said renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews told the receiver he hadn’t seen a knee bounce back like that since he repaired Adrian Peterson’s ACL in December 2011. The future Hall of Famer returned eight months later. surgery, he won league MVP and was within 9 yards of breaking the NFL single-season rushing record.

Just over eight months after Pickens went under the knife, he was back on the field to join an undefeated Georgia team that seemed destined for the national title game. The Bulldogs took their record to 12-0 in Pickens’ season debut on November 27 against Georgia Tech.

The following week, the perfect season fell by the wayside when Alabama eliminated the Bulldogs, 41-24.

“I felt like, damn it, I came back and we lost,” Pickens said. “I haven’t played all season and we’ve been winning. So is it me?

Two weeks later, the Bulldogs faced the Crimson Tide again in the national championship game. With Alabama leading 3-0 in the first half, Pickens made another career-defining play when he set out to catch for 52 yards. That set the tone for a 33-18 victory for Georgia over its rival to claim the title.

George Pickens got up smoothly after diving catch #NationalChampionship

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 11, 2022

Still, questions about Pickens’ knee lingered in the pre-draft process. Because Pickens doesn’t need much separation to make a catch, many wondered how fast he really was. The knee injury added to that narrative.

But with a 4.47 40-yard rush at the NFL Combine, the questions about his knee and his speed disappeared.

“That’s when he was proving people wrong,” Pickens said.

As Pickens watched receiver after receiver fly off the board, his frustration mounted. Pickens visited many teams, including the Packers, Chiefs and Jaguars, each of whom had two first-round picks, before the draft. But they all chose to go in another direction.

When Claypool (of all people) took the stage to announce the Steelers’ selection, Pickens had a weary look on his face that made him a viral sensation. Finally, when Pickens heard his name, he felt a sense of relief and surprise.

“Totally shocked,” Pickens said. “The only time I ever saw the Steelers was on my pro day.”

What happens to the brain of George Pickens? I still love my WR1 😂😂

— KE (@YSN_Honcho_) May 2, 2022

Almost from Day 1, Pickens began to earn the respect of his teammates and coaches.

One day in training camp, Tomlin challenged Pickens by putting Minkah Fitzpatrick on top of him in every drill. The young receiver certainly stood his ground. Then, after Pickens’ touchdown against the Seahawks in the preseason, the All-Pro safety warmed up to the rookie.

“Control of your body is a serious thing,” Fitzpatrick said. “You saw him (against Seattle) in the back of the end zone. Everything seems easy and natural to him.”

Tomlin points to Pickens’ love of the game as one of the reasons he excels in all areas, not just as a receiver.

“He is a competitor. Guys who love to play football, it shows in everything they do,” Tomlin said. “He is good with the ball, he is good without the ball. Is a soccer player. He loves to play.”

During a recent practice, Pickens went up the right seam and Pickett’s dart went over the receiver’s left shoulder. The natural thing would be to make the catch with your hands under the ball.

He swept his left hand over the top of the soccer ball, matched its speed, and hooked it with one hand, like a snake striking out at its prey. Pickens flipped his head to complete the hold.

“That doesn’t make any damn sense,” receiver Diontae Johnson recalls saying.

Trying to describe the catch doesn’t even do it justice. But then again, that’s Pickens, the often memeable and endlessly retweetable catcher.

(Illustration: John Bradford/The Athletic. Photos: John Jones and Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire; Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

How much do Youngboys make?

NBA YoungBoy reportedly earns $17 million per year from YouTube. To see also : Varsity’s Antitrust Plaintiffs Ramp Up Battles on Cheerleading Stage.

How much does NBA YoungBoy cost for a show? Tickets for YoungBoy Never Broke Again can typically be found for as little as $67.00, with an average price of $126.00.

How much does YoungBoy earn per year?

How come NBA YoungBoy is so rich? YoungBoy NBA is not only the king of the rap game, but he’s also the King of YouTube, making him a double threat and a man with at least two massive income streams that help ensure he never really does again. be broke. In fact, the rapper is doing so well that he likes to let everyone in on his success.

How much is YoungBoy worth in 2022?

NBA YoungBoy net worth is $6 million as of 2022. See the article : Clea DuVall Went Back to ‘High School’ and Found Compassion for Herself.

How much is Lil Durk’s net worth in 2022? As of November 2022, Lil Durk’s net worth is estimated at $8 million. What is this? Lil Durk is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter from Chicago. He is the core member and founder of his own collective and record label, Only the Family.

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Who is NFL Youngboy?

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens talks to the media, including Steelers Now’s Alan Saunders, about how he got his nickname NFL Youngboy and how he uses his run blocking and physicality to an advantage in the game aerial. Read also : GALLEY: Eagles Cheerleading final audition.

How tall is George Pickens?

Why do they call George Pickens NFL Youngboy? NFL Youngboy is a nickname Pickens received due to a viral video of him wearing a ski mask reacting when he was drafted. Apparently, rapper NBA Youngboy has been known to wear a balaclava, hence the nickname.

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