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The Shore Conference has never had a player win the Heisman Trophy, but that could soon change.

Enter University of Pittsburgh senior quarterback Kenny Pickett, who on Monday was announced as one of four finalists for the award that recognizes the best college football player in the country. He is also believed to be the first player from the Shore Conference to ever be selected as a finalist since the award's inception in 1935.

The 2021 Heisman Trophy ceremony will take place on Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. on ESPN when Pickett, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson will hope to have their name called as the latest recipient of college football's most famous award.

The former standout at Ocean Township High School continued his incredible season and record-breaking career on Saturday night when he helped lead the Panthers to a 45-21 victory over Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. It is Pitt's first ACC title since leaving the Big East in 2013.

Pickett completed 20 of 33 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a highlight-reel 58-yard touchdown in which he faked a slide and continued toward the end zone for the game's first touchdown. In the process, he set two more passing records that put him in elite company. His 22-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Hammond Jr. in the first quarter broke NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino's school record of 79 career touchdown passes. Pickett added another to extend his record to 81. His second touchdown pass, a 4-yard score to Jared Wayne in the second quarter, set the ACC record for touchdown passes with 42, passing the old record of 41 set by Clemson's Deshaun Watson in 2016.


"Kenny means everything to this program,'' Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi said to reporters following the ACC title game. "He didn't come back to win the Heisman, but he should. He came back to Pittsburgh to win a championship and this is a dream come true. I couldn't be happier for number eight.''


Pickett has already been named the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and is 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. Pickett has thrown multiple touchdowns in all 13 of Pitt's games and totals 4,319 yards passing, 42 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions on the season. In addition to the Heisman, Pickett is 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. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with 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 enrolled at Pitt in January of 2017.

Ocean senior quarterback Kenny Pickett. (Photo by Ray Richardson).
Ocean senior quarterback Kenny Pickett. (Photo by Ray Richardson).
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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's been the Panthers' starter ever since and produced three solid 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.

Pickett has skyrocketed up draft boards, put himself in contention for the Heisman, led Pitt to 11 wins and a New Year's Six bowl berth, and become a Steel City legend.

There's a great chance he is a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but before that, he could be immortalized as a Heisman Trophy winner. Not bad for a kid from the Jersey Shore.

 

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