It took UCLA defensive back Adarius Pickett just three years to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science. However, when it came time to speak with Ronnie Lott after being named the Week 6 Lott IMPACT Player of the Week, Pickett’s understanding of the transfer of energy made him sound more like a chemistry major.
Pickett is acutely aware that energy is contagious. It’s what motivates him on the field, and what inspires him off of it.
“I sensed that early in the [Washington] game. I made a hit on one of their running backs early in the game and I saw the reaction from my teammates and I’m like, ‘I’ve got to keep playing like this if we’re going to have a chance to even compete with this team because my teammates feed off my energy.'”
Lott caught up with the redshirt senior as the then 0-5 Bruins began preparations to play the Cal Golden Bears. As his sixteen tackles and interception against the Huskies might suggest, Pickett refuses to be discouraged despite the Bruins’ disappointing record.
“I’m really like that spark plug out there. Once I kind of sensed that, that’s what gave me that extra juice to just keep playing and run to the ball,” said Pickett.
“That feeling is something that you want to sense when playing football,” he continued. “It’s just that energy that you can give to your teammates, that you know that they’re receiving. You see other guys’ games to go another level…once you’ve got that one person doing it, then another one, then pretty soon it’s the whole defense and then you spread that energy to the offense.”
Speaking like a seasoned veteran, Pickett concluded, “that’s why football is so amazing – because it’s not a one-man game. It’s really a team sport. It really takes all eleven individuals on every single play to succeed in the game on every single play.”
Lott praised Pickett for his attitude, calling him “the ultimate teammate.” Impressed with his unselfishness on the field, Lott asked Pickett how he carries that quality over the sidelines and into his life.
“My whole thing is motivating and inspiring the youth, no matter if the kid has a special need or special challenge, or regular kids in urban areas, or kids in general,” said Pickett. “I like to inspire younger kids, to elevate them and help them understand that not only should you strive to do well in a sport on the field or court or wherever, but also in the classroom.”
The redshirt senior told Lott of his visits to elementary schools and Children’s Hospital, and of days and nights hosting the Watts Bears and special needs children on campus and at football games.
“I always want to give the impression that being a good student means you’ve got to excel in the classroom if you want to succeed on the field,” said Pickett. “Especially in urban cities, a lot of youth think that being a good student is being a nerd, and it’s not like that.”
Pickett drew parallels to being a student of the game. “As you get to the collegiate level and the NFL, you spend a whole lot of time in the classroom, so you want to create good habits at a young age so you can lean on those habits as you get older.”
Lott asked if there were any moments when Pickett had felt particularly inspired while working with children.
“Earlier in the summer I was working at a kid’s camp – it was Snoop Dogg’s Special Stars, a football camp for special needs kids,” Pickett recalled. “I was the celebration coach, so when they would get to the end of a drill or score a touchdown or whatever, I was giving them that energy.”
But it was the energy he got from the campers that left UCLA’s self-proclaimed “spark plug” speechless.
“These young guys and girls, they’re not fortunate enough to be as healthy, but just to see the smiles on their face when they would do something, the energy and the happiness that I got a chance to see them have was just — wow.”
Pickett and the Bruins put together a commanding 37-7 win over Cal and will look to keep momentum on their side as they line up against the Arizona Wildcats on October 20.