Ryan Pickett is a Big Man With a Big Heart

Big players make big plays in big games.

That’s the mantra that is echoed by scores of football coaches across the nation on game day.  Especially in the NFL, teams are often so evenly matched that just a few big plays can decide the outcome of a game.  Typically game changing plays come from premier positions like quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers or pass rushers.  Rarely does one find themselves saying, “Man, that 330 lb defensive tackle broke the game open on that one.”  Those are the guys that go to war in the trenches and they will rarely make plays worthy of a Sportscenter highlight.  Rarely.

So flashback to Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.  The fourth quarter is starting and Green Bay leads 21-17 but the Steelers have the ball on the Packers’ 33 yard line and are threatening to score.  The first play of the quarter is a Steeler run play but as soon as the ball is snapped, Packers DT Ryan Pickett crashes through the Steelers offensive line, blowing up running back Rashard Medenhall and forcing a fumble.  The Packers recover the fumble and go onto score of their following drive, eventually winning the Super Bowl 31-25.  It was a big night for Ryan Pickett.

Yet, that night may not mean quite as much for Pickett as the night he met his wife, Jennifer.  In Ryan’s rookie year with the St. Louis Rams he was in Atlanta for an away game against the Falcons.  The night before the game, Pickett was hungry. So he hopped in the car and went to a mall in Atlanta.  “I wanted chocolate,” he says. At the same time, a young college student was coming back to the mall where she worked so she could pick up a pair of jeans that she had left behind.  These two pull into the parking lot beside one another and as they get out of their cars, they notice one another and begin to talk.  That night they talked for 3 1/2 hours and a relationship was forged.

For Jennifer, meeting Ryan was an answer to prayer.  “Before I met Ryan I was fasting and praying that God would send me my husband.”  Meeting Jennifer was an act of God’s grace for Ryan. Before meeting Jennifer, Ryan had been leading a life of partying that was far from Christian.  As their relationship grew, Jennifer was faithfully praying that Ryan would submit his life to Christ and it wasn’t long before those prayers were answered . “One day I woke up and I was tired of what I had been doing and I gave my life to Christ,” Ryan says.  “I found who I was in Christ and started doing everything for Him.”

Ryan gives everything He does as a form of worship to God.  From working hard on the field to loving Jennifer and even being a daddy to six children.  In a day when many people may think that having a large family can be a burden, the Picketts see things differently.  “Having six kids is awesome,” Jennifer says. “We know that God has blessed us with the kids we have.”  Even after a hard day on the field, Ryan comes home and joyfully jumps into action with his kids.  Jennifer tells me, “He comes home from work everyday and he helps with homework.  We put the kids to bed and we read the Bible to them.  As the spiritual leader, he takes time to explain the Bible to them . I know he’s tired but he still does it.”

Ryan realizes that 10 years from now, the difference making plays that he made in big games will be distant memories. For him, making a difference as a daddy is something that will matter more than game day memories. He’s setting a tone for his family as he leads them towards Christ.