Barret Pickering doesn’t consider himself superstitious when kicking a football. As in another sport he enjoys — golf — every shot and every situation is a distinct experience.
Yet the junior from Hoover, Alabama, has often thought of his good fortune in recent weeks. To hold two scholarship offers — one from Vanderbilt, another from Nebraska — this far before his senior season is uncommon for specialists like him.
Pickering told The World-Herald last weekend he wanted to choose “pretty soon, probably within weeks,” between the schools that most believed in him. He publicly sided with the Huskers Tuesday night on Twitter to become NU’s ninth known commit for the 2018 class.
The 6-foot, 175-pound Pickering said he has been in touch with Nebraska coach Mike Riley as well as graduate manager and special teams assistant Nick Smith the last two months.
“I’ve come to my decision by selecting a school with the highest level of academics and football, and I want to be a part of something special and greater than me,” Pickering tweeted. “Thank you Coach Riley for having confidence in me and allowing me to pursue my dream; I promise I will not let you down!”
Pickering attended NU’s spring game last month and left impressed by the crowd, facilities and academic options. He shared a meal with the returning kicker, senior-to-be Drew Brown, along with sophomore punter Caleb Lightbourn, and “had a great time.”
Rated the No. 2 kicker nationally and a five-star prospect at the position by the specialist evaluator Kohl’s Kicking, Pickering had made unofficial visits to Florida, Texas and Notre Dame as well as Vanderbilt. One way the Huskers stood out, he said, was coaches never saw him kick in person.
“(Nebraska) told me they wanted the best and they want this class to be one of the best classes they’ve ever had,” Pickering said. “It was just really humbling to hear that.”
NU offered him April 14, with Vanderbilt doing the same three days later.
Pickering made all 49 of his extra-point tries last fall and 20 of 27 field goals, including a long of 49 yards and two four-kick games. His 42-yarder in Hoover High School’s final game helped the school from Birmingham’s largest suburb win the state title in Class 7A. A member of the MaxPreps 2016 Junior All-American team, he also sent 66 of his 79 kickoffs for touchbacks.
Pickering is rated a 4.5-star punter and No. 29 nationally at that spot, but said Nebraska wants him to focus on field goals and kickoffs at the next level.
The prep senior-to-be often gives a few hops on his left foot after kicking and points his right arm at the ball’s flight path. A soccer midfielder until his dad persuaded him to try football as a freshman in high school, he said he can consistently hit from 60 yards with no wind.
He added that he handles the mental aspects of the job well — especially having a short memory — and is making leg strength development a priority before coming to Lincoln.
“I don’t have the biggest leg out there and I’m not the most consistent,” Pickering said. “But I have a pretty good balance of kicking it far and kicking it pretty accurately.”
The Alabama native got his first taste of Big Ten football last fall while watching a former teammate — Wisconsin sophomore-to-be Bradrick Shaw — play Nebraska on television. He had heard of Riley, and was entertained by the drama of Wisconsin’s 23-17 win in overtime.
Pickering is in line to be the lone Husker field-goal kicker on scholarship in 2018 after Brown departs following this season.