September 15, 2023

Hogan: Pickett Promises to Live Up to His Nickname

If you’ve never watched Adarius Pickett play before and aren’t sure where to find him on the field, just look for the football and you’ll see him soon enough.

The Toronto Argonauts strongside, or ‘SAM” linebacker, is almost always in the middle of things. If there’s a quarterback under pressure, he could be there. If a running back gets hit in the backfield, he might be there. If a receiver is tackled after a catch, Pickett will likely be somewhere in the area.

On a team filled with candidates for the team’s and perhaps league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award, Pickett may be the leading contender as we head into the final seven games of the season.

The UCLA product comfortably leads the Argos in total defensive plays with 86; 62 defensive tackles, 10 special teams tackles, 4 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 3 pass knockdowns, 2 fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble.

There is however a category that surprisingly boasts a zero, especially for someone whose nickname is “Pick Six” – he has no interceptions, yet.

“It’s coming, it’s coming,” he said with a smile when asked by Argonauts.ca if we need to change his nickname. “We’ve got some things drawn up, but it’s coming, it’s coming.”

You would be wise to believe him.

Adarius Pickett was seemingly destined to be an Argo, especially with the team’s new jerseys so close in colour to the one he wore in college. He jumped at the chance to come to Toronto via free agency, returning a signed contract just 13 minutes after he was one of the first four free agents to receive a formal offer from the Argos.

What does last year’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player with the Alouettes feel he’s brought to the Argo defence?

“A lot of physicality,” he said without hesitation. “Leadership. Just a level of energy that some may not be accustomed to or used to. You might see me on the field dancing, you might see me on the field having fun, but I really love to play the game of football and I’m really enjoying myself being here.”

A high energy level isn’t something that Pickett just brings to the field.

“It’s just who I am. I like the vibe wherever I go. That’s why I got one of the nicknames as being a party starter. Wherever I go I feel I’m bringing that energy; whether that’s my family, whether that’s my friends, whether that’s my teammates. Whomever I’m around, if you come in contact with me, you’re going to feel that.”

Other than Pickett himself, there’s probably nobody happier to see him donning Double Blue than defensive coordinator Corey Mace. When he was asked about what Pickett brings to the team, his answer was similar to his player’s.

“Energy first,” he said to Argonauts.ca. “Second, his ability to affect the box is I think the best in the league at his position. And his will to make a play, he’s always around the ball whether it’s big plays or routine plays he’s going to be around and he’s coming with ill intentions (big smile) and you love that.”

Pickett didn’t have an easy act to follow in Toronto. His predecessor at SAM was another highly talented player in Chris Edwards. Each player has a tremendous skill level but are different players. Argonauts.ca asked Mace what Pickett’s skillset allows him to do differently as a coach.

“I think shoring up in the run game,” he replied. “His ability to play versus bigger personnel groupings, just a little bit more firm. He’s got a knack for being around the box, so I think that allows us to get away with certain things in certain fronts, it also adds to it when we’ve got to match bigger bodies.”

Adarius Pickett is, simply put, a football player. In high school he rushed for over 1,800 yards as a senior. At UCLA he recorded 123 tackles in his final season while also returning punts. His love for the game has rubbed off on everyone he comes in contact with, while his attitude and abilities and a player are both elite.

He just needs that first interception.