Kevin Pickelman: A Humble Leader
Oct. 26, 2011
By Mitch Lex, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Kevin Pickelman has never been a man of many words.
While some of his teammates provide a vocal presence on the field, it's the quiet and persistent attitude of the fifth-year senior that has helped build Pickelman's successful Spartan career.
Since his red-shirt freshman year in 2008, Pickelman has been a constant force on the Spartan defensive line, seeing action in 43 games and recording 73 tackles - including 9.5 for losses with four sacks.
Although Pickelman started seeing success early in his MSU career, a neck injury plagued portions of his junior year, sidelining him for the contests against conference foes Wisconsin and Northwestern. But Pickelman's efforts while he was healthy allowed him to tally an impressive career-high 31 tackles during MSU's Big Ten Championship season in 2010.
Coming into the 2011 schedule, Pickelman knew his presence would be felt if injuries didn't keep him off the gridiron, so staying healthy was one of his main goals throughout the off-season. He has enjoyed the changes and reaped the benefits it hasbrought.
"Going into this season I wasn't too sure what was going to happen," said Pickelman. "I've just tried to keep my head up and do all my treatments. I also tried to take it a little easier in the off-season so I could come into the year healthy. It's been real different, but I'm liking it a lot."
Pickelman is not the only one enjoying his injuryfree 2011 season, as his consistent job at nose tackle has been key to the domination the Spartan defense has showcased. Pickelman's play, as well as his leadership and experience on a young defensive unit that ranks No. 2 in the nation in total defense, has certainly been felt.
"I definitely see myself as a leader," he said. "I'm not always the most vocal or in-your-face guy, but I would say I do fit in as a leader on this team."
While many players have extensive and involved pre-game rituals, Pickelman's is a rather simple one, and quite telling of his outlook for the game -- always be ready. It is this mantra that allows him to make sure his actions speak louder than words.
"I don't have any specific pre-game rituals, but I'm always one of the first ones dressed," Pickelman explained. "I usually end up just standing there pacing by the door ready to go. I'm always too excited and can't get myself to sit still."
As a senior leader, Pickelman has cherished every moment of the success of this year's defense, and seeing the many hours of work he and his fellow teammates have put in pay off.
"It means a lot to go out on top as a senior and to be a part of one of the best defensive lines this school has seen in awhile," he said. "It just comes from hard work, really understanding the game and focusing on our techniques."
While the success has certainly been savored by Pickelman, his goals for his team still remain lofty.
"I want to be part of the best defensive unit this school has ever had," he remarked. "I know it's not going to be easy but I think we have the potential to achieve that."
As a Spartan, Pickelman has been part of a Big Ten Championship as well as victories over Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame - all wins that have advanced the MSU program into the national spotlight and conference championship contention. Being part of a program that has taken positive steps every year toward achieving its goal has been rewarding for the senior.
"It's awesome because I wouldn't know it any different," said Pickelman. "It's been really cool to be involved with a team that has stepped up the bar every single year. It's been a real ride and I really want to end it with roses."
As with many Spartans, Pickelman highlights his four victories over Michigan as some of his best memories at MSU. And he was always ready to play against the Wolverines.
In MSU's 26-20 overtime victory in 2009, Pickelman recorded a 5-yard sack and was one of the reasons Michigan rushed for just 28 yards in the game. In this year's 28-14 win, he tied a career high with two tackles for loss, including a 9-yard sack of Denard Robinson.
It all adds up to a 4-0 record in his career against MSU's biggest rival.
While Pickelman is unsure of his post-college plans, he knows football will continue to be an influence on what's ahead. His experience as a Spartan has played a significant part in who he is today.
"It's hard for me to think about my future without thinking about football," Pickelman said. "It's been such a large part of my life and had such a positive impact on me that it will be hard to leave."
While Pickelman's football pursuits may take him outside of Spartan Stadium, his legacy as a Spartan whose quiet but powerful contribution was key to multiple winning seasons will always be remembered.
GETTING TO KNOW Kevin Pickelman
Hometown: Marshall, Mich.
This feature was originally published in the Oct. 22, 2011, edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine; updates were included following the Wisconsin game.
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