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MOBILE, Alabama – For the most part, quarterbacks projected to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft do not participate in the Senior Bowl college football all-star game in front of legions of NFL coaches, general managers, other executives and scouts because they are already considered elite.
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, who could be available for the Saints at No. 18 of the first round on April 28, wanted to come anyway. He did not stay long, but he made his mark.
Picket completed 6 of 6 passes for 89 yards with a 20-yard touchdown to Baylor running back Abram Smith for the National team in the first quarter of its 20-10 win over the American team in front of about 15,000 at Hancock Whitney Stadium here Saturday afternoon.
And after his clinic, he took the rest of the day off.
“The plan was just to play the first quarter,” Pickett said.
More important at the Senior Bowl are the practices during the week, and Pickett did very well in those, too, after finishing sixth in the nation in passing yards in 2021 with 4,319 on 334-of-497 passing with 42 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He finished No. 9 in efficiency with a 165.3 rating.
So, why the Senior Bowl?
“To show I could be consistent,” he said. “I mean everyone was saying that I had a flash-in-the-pan season. Thirteen games, I played at a pretty high level, I don’t think it was. So, I wanted to come down here and continue on that consistent level.”
He could not have been more consistent in his completion percentage.
New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh and his staff coached the National team against Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell and his staff.
“It definitely helps,” Pickett said. “It’s a great experience to have, learning an NFL system. I feel pretty good about whatever system I may go to.”
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder completed 4 of 6 passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns for the National team. He threw a 6-yard touchdown to Colorado State tight end Trey McBride for a 13-0 lead late in the first half. Ridder found Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson for a 25-yard touchdown and a 20-10 lead with 11:04 left in the game. Ferguson led all receivers with 62 yards on three catches.
Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe completed 8 of 13 passes for 103 yards for the American team, which got 18 yards rushing on six carries from Alabama tailback Brian Robinson, Jr.
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell completed 6 of 9 passes for 37 yards for the American team and rushed five times for 29 yards with a 2-yard touchdown to cut its deficit to 13-7 in the third quarter.
“I talked to a lot of guys who came here before, and they told me what to expect,” Pickett said. “It exceeded those expectations. Overall, it was an unbelievable experience.”
The overall MVP of the Senior Bowl was National defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey of Oklahoma. He made five tackles with three for losses, including two sacks.
Defensive end DeAngelo Malone of Western Kentucky was the American MVP with six tackles, including three solo stops and two quarterback hurries. Defensive end Boye Mate of Minnesota was the National MVP with three tackles, including two sacks, and he had a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.