March 20, 2024

Riley Pickett | 5 Things To Know

When June arrives, BC Lions’ Riley Pickett wants to show the rest of the league that there’s a new best long snapper in the CFL. He has spent this off-season in what he describes as: “working in the lab”. Pickett began as an eager defensive lineman wanting to make game-changing tackles; now, the Saskatoon native takes pride in being a special teams player. With a great, veteran kicker like Sean Whyte and a punter like Stefan Flintoft lining up behind him, it’s a huge responsibility to ensure every snap is on target.

Pickett, a 5th-round selection in the 2022 CFL Draft by the BC Lions took on his new role in 2023, and admits he was nervous at times. As a former defensive lineman who suddenly had to focus on his finesse with the football, it was a tough task. Picket used to prioritize his strength training as his size and muscles were what got him to where he is today. For example, during the 2022 CFL National Combine, Pickett piqued some interest by crushing out 26 reps on the bench press and jumping a 34-inch vertical. His physicality has benefitted him from the junior level to the university level, but Pickett now has turned his focus to mastering “the art” of long snapping.

Now with the 2024 CFL Combine underway, Riley Pickett looks back at some of his best combine memories, like the preparation leading up to his solid performance. He also discusses special teams, accounting & China! Here are 5 Things To Know about Riley Pickett:

1. Riley’s Draft Stock Rose After His Performance

A player like Pickett will tell you how significant combine performance can improve a prospect’s draft stock coming out of U Sports football. It’s one of the few ways for Canadian prospects to gain exposure in front of all the CFL teams. To stand out in front of everyone else, Pickett had to deliver the results in each individual drill to catch the Lions’ attention.

Luckily, Pickett and a few teammates on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies stuck to the same training schedule under Football Canada’s strength and conditioning coach, Joel Lipinski, who guided Pickett throughout the process of preparing for his best performance on the field.

“We had two brilliant minds in Joel Lipinski, the strength coach, and Graham Black, the track and field coach. They collaborated to make us the most explosive and strong athletes we could be. The training was awesome, we benefitted from the training. Our draft stock rose, especially me and Nathan Cherry,” Pickett said.

Here is the full list of 2022 CFL National Combine participants, including active Lions like Pickett, Nathan Cherry, Josh Archibald, Adrian Greene and Ryder Varga.

2. Riley Loves Being a Special Teamer 

The transition from playing defensive line to being a full-time long snapper within a few months was a major change for Pickett. He put pressure on himself throughout training camp, because not only was he competing for a job, but there was also no room for error during a real game.

At first, there was cutting weight. Pickett had to revamp his entire training routine from doing heavy benching and squatting to mobility drills, and working on more finesse with the ball to create the perfect spiral.

Pickett admits that it felt like a survival game last season when all he could focus on was not messing up the snap. Fast forward a season, and his goal for 2024 is to become the best long snapper in the league, as he works on figuring out the art of long snapping. Pickett has been utilizing softballs and resistance bands to enhance his full-body mobility and create the perfect spin. 

Thankfully, Sean Whyte and Stefan Flintoft made Pickett’s life much easier in 2023.

“Those two guys made my year expectational. I love spending time with them. We’re always laughing and joking around. Usually, one of us will be the target for all the jokes. If it’s ever Whyte who’s on the receiving end, it normally doesn’t end that well,” he laughs.  “I love those guys, we talk frequently and play  Fortnite together. I can’t wait to get back out there,” Pickett said.

3. Riley is Training with Special Teams University 

Transforming from a beefy defensive lineman to a versatile long snapper who can still make a tackle on special teams, Pickett knew he would require professional help to implement tweaks to his technique. Although he hasn’t touched the bench press and the deadlift so far this offseason, Pickett had replaced two of his dominant exercises to focus on the fundamentals of long snapping.

Pickett traveled down to Wisconsin to be coached by Kyle Stelter at the Special Teams University. In just three days, Stelter changed Pickett’s grip when holding the ball, changed his release point and his long snapping sequence.

“Last year, I was just trying to survive when punt or field goal got called. This year, I’m looking forward to being on the field. I want to showcase all the hard work I’ve been putting in,” Pickett added.

“Also, I’m lucky enough that I got Jorgen Hus, the Roughriders’ long snapper who lives in Saskatoon. He and I train five days a week. We compete and make each other better.”

4. Riley Works at EY Accounting in the Offseason

Pickett was an accounting major at the University of Saskatchewan. He received a co-op opportunity with Ernst & Young, an accounting firm when he was still a student. Now, Pickett works part-time at EY accounting in the offseason. 

He’s been juggling between numbers and football since his freshman year in university. Pickett said his quarterback, Ethan Watson was also an accounting major, they kept each other in check by staying on top of school.

“We were study buddies, and we knew the deadlines. We got through school together as a team. There were a few of us who were in accounting, it’s not always an easy subject. But there’s always strength in numbers. They definitely made it more doable for sure,” Pickett added.

5. Riley Played for Football Canada in China

In 2017, Pickett suited up in red and white to represent football Canada and played in a tournament in Harbin, China. Pickett and Team Canada played in some quality matches against Team Mexico and Team USA during their trip of a lifetime. 

“It was pretty crazy. The amount of people, cars, the amount of skyscrapers. The technology they have in China is crazy too. That was eight years ago and they were more technologically advanced compared to some Western countries. We were walking around the mall and there was like a hologram and an underground section of the mall,” Pickett recalled.

While the sightseeing was a surreal experience, the athletes had to adjust to the culture like the food, environment, and language during their short stay in China. The goal for Team Canada was to be in the final round where they’ll face Team USA in the championship game.

“We played against Mexico in the first round, we barely snuck by them. They had a really good team. We played the States in the gold medal game, our defensive coordinator had such a great plan in disguising coverage. It was a nail-biter and I remember the crowd roaring. The Chinese fans were crazy, the stadium was sold out in Harbin,” he added.

“We felt like celebrities because people would ask us to take photos. It was a huge culture shock with the food. It was real Chinese food, so it took a while to get used to. I didn’t mind it personally and really enjoyed the experience.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Riley (@rileypickett9)