Cody Pickett has never complained.
He never complained when his college coach of four years was fired right before his senior season. He never complained when his National Football League draft stock plummeted following a disappointing senior year. He never complained when he was traded or let go from multiple NFL teams. And he never complained when his Eagle High girls basketball team fell painstakingly short of winning the first state title in program history.
No, through all the ups and downs that’s come the Caldwell native’s way, Pickett has always made the best out of the situations he’s been given, good or bad, and left his mark in the process.
For always representing Canyon County the right way, Pickett is the 2016-17 recipient of the Idaho Press Tribune’s Sports Stars Legacy Award.
“It wasn’t easy, but I tell my kids all the time, ‘you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it and grind at it,’” Pickett said. “But you gotta have that belief. My belief was I was going to play in the NFL, no matter what obstacle got in my way. I was going to make it because that was my true love. I was so fortunate and blessed to get there.”
That mentality was instilled upon him at a young age by his parents. His father, Dee Pickett, was a rodeo star back in the day. He won the team roping and all-around titles at the 1984 National Finals Rodeo. Dee was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2003.
Dee ended up passing his athletic ability onto his son, who became a four-sport star at Caldwell High. Pickett played football, basketball, golf and of course, rodeo, where he followed in his father’s footsteps by doing team roping and calf roping. Pickett was a natural just like his father. He qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals in three straight years and did quite well for himself outside of the high school rodeo scene. As former Caldwell football coach Bill Cooper put it, “He had more money in his bank account than I did.”
But it was on the gridiron where Pickett found his calling. After starting for the Cougars for three years, he signed to play college football for the University of Washington.
“I remember showing now-Washington head coach Chris Petersen film of Cody when he was at Oregon,” Cooper said. “I asked him, ‘where would you rank him right now?’ He rewound a play of Cody scrambling, rolling out to his left and firing a 35-yard strike. He said, ‘you see that right there? Half the kids I’ve seen couldn’t make that throw. He’s easily in the top 10 in the entire west.’ Chris said that when Cody was just a sophomore. I know right then we had a gem.”
Pickett went on to have a prolific career at Washington. He played in front of over 94,000 people as a freshman at the 2001 Rose Bowl opposite New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees, before starting for three seasons. He still holds school records to this day for career passing yards (10,220), touchdown passes (55) and pass completions (821).
His play drew national attention. He was ESPN’s College GameDay host Kirk Herbstreit’s 2003 Heisman trophy pick and was deemed by many NFL analysts to be a first or second round draft pick.
But after then-head coach Rick Neuheisel was fired right before his senior year, things turned upside down for Pickett. The firing, combined with a torn pectoral muscle and a 6-6 season, plummeted his draft stock. He wasn’t selected until the seventh round, pick 217 by the San Francisco 49ers.
“It was rough. There really isn’t any other way of putting it,” Pickett said. “I went from being a guy who was a projected first round pick to sitting at my buddy’s house on Chicken Dinner Road in Caldwell, not knowing if I ever was going to get a call.”
Despite nearly never being selected, Pickett fulfilled his goal of playing in the NFL. He played for two seasons in San Francisco, going from a special teams player and fourth string quarterback to starter within one season. When starter Tim Rattay was traded and Ken Dorsey and current Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith both went down with injuries, Pickett was elevated to starter. He started two games in all, which included going toe-to-toe with two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning of the New York Giants.
The starts, through, didn’t exactly go as planned. Pickett combined to go just 14 of 35 for 140 yards and a pair of interceptions. Pickett was traded to the Houston Texans the following season before being released early in the season. He did get picked up by the Oakland Raiders in July of 2007 but was let go one month later, which ended his NFL career.
“It may not have ended the way I wanted to, but it’s something I’m proud of,” Pickett said. “It just goes to show it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can make it. If you can dream it, you can do it. I was just a guy from Caldwell who didn’t go to all these crazy Elite 11 camps and all that stuff. I just got some film out there and was a pretty decent player and I was able to make it.”
After his departure from the NFL, Picket joined the Canadian Football League. He played for three different teams from 2007-2010: Toronto Argonauts, Montreal Alouettes and the Calgary Stampeders. But following the 2010 season with the Stampeders, Pickett decided to pursue another passion he had picked up a few years earlier.
Pickett started coaching basketball after coming back from Toronto in 2007. His first job was as an assistant with his dad coaching Hoop Dreams. Shortly after, he created Team 208, which featured his younger sister, Carson. From there, Pickett became the head coach of the North Star Charter boys basketball team in 2011. In his first season at the helm, he took the Huskies, who had won just five games the previous season to a 2A consolation championship.
“When I realized I had this huge passion for coaching, I just knew it was time for me to be done,” Pickett said. “I got to go out on my own terms which was really cool because a lot of guys don’t get to do that.
Pickett was then hired as the head coach of the Eagle girls basketball team in 2013, the position he holds today. Since becoming the coach for the Mustangs, they’ve become one of the best programs in the state.
Eagle has been to three consecutive state tournaments, and this season, came within four points of a perfect season. The Mustangs lost to the Centennial Patriots 40-37 in the 5A State Girls Championship game.
“Cody is great at consistency and organization,” said former Eagle girls basketball player Abby Mangum. “You can tell he cares so much about us because he spends countless hours coaching and planning and making sure that the girls are doing okay. He knows how to push us, but also understands when it’s time to let up and have a little fun.”
In addition to coaching basketball, Pickett is a partner for Financial Insurance Group National. When he’s not at work or coaching basketball, he can be found at home with his wife Carleigh, who he’s been with for almost 20 years and their three children, Cash 6, Mayzee 4 and Cruz 1.
You won’t hear him complain about anything anytime soon.
“I’m a very lucky guy,” Pickett said. “Things could have went differently, but I’m honestly really thankful how everything played out because I couldn’t be in a better place in my life.”