Chances are you've heard of Tony Picard by now. You might not know his name, or if you think you do, you may think I'm misspelling the surname of legendary tennis coach Tony Pickard, but I assure you I am not.
This Tony Picard seems so familiar yet so identifiable because you probably know him better by this name: that 400-pound running back from that video I watched. Picard, a senior White Swan High School in Yakima, Wash., became a viral superstar over the past few days when Jack McNeel of the Indian Country Today Media Network published a story on the 6'4", 400-pound running back and nose tackle.
More important than the story was the still frame accompanying it, with Picard looking as if he's about to end the life of poor No. 3, who is just a normal-sized kid trying to get through his Friday night sans decapitation.
If you don't understand why the Internet would be so fascinated by a 400-pound running back, well, then, I am unsure about what to tell you. But the kid's legend only grew when USA Today's FTW found game tape on Picard barreling over three and four defenders at a time, his sheer size and surprisingly quick feet making for an impossibly difficult scenario for opposing schools.
While mostly used as a decoy, Picard has been playing running back throughout the season, gaining more than 700 yards and 15 touchdowns. White Swan’s coach, Andrew Bush, indicated to McNeel that Picard's presence alone is enough to make everything on offense easier.
“Most teams will sacrifice five guys to stop him: four linemen and a middle linebacker. That leaves three guys on each side to stop the rest of our team,” Bush said. “Everything else opens up: our outside running, our play action and our entire passing game. We average about 450 yards as a team offensively.”
So...cool, freakish story, right? Well, probably. In all likelihood, Picard's story will be remembered in the same space as that time every sports team was creating their own "Harlem Shake" videos.
But it doesn't necessarily have to. When there's a massive, 400-pound player with the athleticism necessary to be a running back—even at a high school where they aren't known as a national power—there has to be collegiate offers flooding in from everywhere, right? Alabama, LSU, Oregon, etc., right?
Not really. Picard doesn't have a recruit page on any of the major sites (247 Sports, Rivals, ESPN, etc.), and not much was made of his future when covering his story. He told McNeel that he's spoken to a few college coaches, but he didn't indicate what level of interest he was receiving. Assuredly, with our 24/7 coverage on the lives of these kids, we'd know if Picard were headed to Tuscaloosa or something.
With so much attention heading his way, though, it seems like he should be getting more calls than ever. Picard told the New York Post's Zach Braziller that coaches from Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Central Washington have spoken with him about playing at their schools, but no scholarship offer is on the table. Picard told the Post he has no preference about whether he carries the ball or plays on the line.
“I honestly don’t,” Picard said. “As long as I’m on the field playing, that’s all that matters.”
OK, let's get one thing out of the way. Picard is not playing running back, fullback or any other primary rushing position at the collegiate level.
No major college coach of sound mind, body and soul would think of using Picard as a regular running back. Maybe he could run the ball in limited goal-line situations like an evolutionary version of William Perry, but Picard's story went viral for a reason. It's a freak anomaly; Nick Saban isn't suddenly going to throw Picard into the lineup over T.J. Yeldon.
“Chances are he’ll be recruited as a lineman, but there’s always the chance that he’ll get his chance to carry the ball on those short touchdown runs," Bush said. "It’s tough to stop 400 pounds!”
True enough, but Picard's real calling card here is as a long-term project. Though it's been widely reported that he plays nose tackle—and his sheer size alone befits some cursory looks based on that—there's a reason that he's been running the ball since his sophomore year and we're just hearing about it now.
No need to cast aspersions here, but it's highly unlikely that he's Haloti Ngata or Vince Wilfork in the making.
That being said, it's equally fair to assert that Picard has a lot more potential than your typical low-level Division I recruit. Why wouldn't an enterprising coach attempt to harness his athleticism, quickness and size into a run-stuffing defensive tackle? Wouldn't that somehow be better than the morass of undersized players who struggle to keep up at the mid-major level?
Should Tony Picard get a chance to play FBS football?
And if that doesn't work out, guess what? Dude can run the football! At the very least, he'd be a fun goal-line back and a crowd favorite—which is exactly the type of player a coach at a fledgling program could use, someone who can fill the stands and likely be effective near the painted area. It's not like tackling a 400-pounder is any easier in college than high school—or even the pros (e.g. Perry).
There are 126 FBS football programs in this country. You're telling me that teams in the Sun Belt, non-affiliated schools or the bottom-barrel MAC teams couldn't find a spot for this kid? I've seen some of those teams play.
Still, if nothing comes of this, can someone at least cut a video of Picard bowling over unsuspecting high school players backed to the "Harlem Shake?" Asking for a friend.
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