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Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett wins 2021 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett was named the winner of the 2021 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award on Tuesday.

Pickett is the first Pitt player to win the prestigious award, which has been presented annually by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation and A.O. Smith Corporation to the top upperclassman quarterback set to graduate with his class since 1987.

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“There were many who were worthy of this consideration, but there was only one who stood above the rest,” John Unitas Jr. said in a video announcing Pickett as the winner of the award named after the Baltimore Colts legend. “Throughout this year, you have demonstrated the values for which this award stands both on and off the field, attributes that my dad, Johnny Unitas, would have admired greatly.”

Through 13 games for the No. 13 Panthers (11-2), Pickett has completed 67.2% of his passes for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. The New Jersey native also has five rushing touchdowns, and his passing yardage, passing touchdowns, total touchdowns and completions are all Pitt single-season records. He also set an Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record for touchdown passes, eclipsing the previous mark of 41 set by Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in 2016.

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Pickett, who is also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and the ACC Player of the Year, is piloting the country’s No. 3 unit in scoring (43.0 points per game) and No. 5 in total offense (502.9 yards per game). The redshirt senior stands as the Panthers’ all-time leader in passing yards (12,303), pass completions (1,045), total offense (13,112) and passing touchdowns (81), and his 20 career rushing touchdowns are the most ever for a Pitt quarterback.

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett runs with the ball during the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Wake Forest on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett runs with the ball during the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Wake Forest on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. (Jacob Kupferman/AP)

“To receive an award named after the legendary Johnny Unitas is just an incredible honor,” Pickett said. “I know the high standards he set, both as a quarterback and as a leader. Certainly I’ll always strive to uphold those standards and represent this award the best I can. I want to thank Mr. Unitas Jr., the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation and A.O. Smith. As always, I accept this award on behalf of my teammates and coaches who made this all possible.”

In a 45-21 win over No. 20 Wake Forest in the ACC championship game, Pickett broke the school record for career touchdown passes set by Dan Marino, who threw 79 during his career from 1979 to 1982. Pitt will face No. 11 Michigan State in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 30 in Atlanta in the team’s first New Year’s Six appearance in the College Football Playoff era.

Pitt’s two-time team captain earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing and is presently enrolled in the Katz Graduate School of Business. He has been nationally lauded for his Name, Image and Likeness initiatives, which have emphasized philanthropy as well as his teammates.

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Pickett’s achievements will be honored on Friday in Baltimore. The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation and A.O. Smith are hosting this year’s event at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore. The first-ever winner of the Golden Arm Award, Don McPherson, will deliver the keynote remarks at the event.

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