A Tribute to a True Legend

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A Tribute to a True Legend

 

The city of Jacksonville as well as the athletic community of northeast Florida is shaken up as it extends farewell  to one of its legendary high school football coaches, Fred Pickard. Due to an extensive battle with Parkinson’s disease, Fred Pickard, 83,  passed away on December 31, 2021 in Dickson, TN. 

 

The hard-nosed Hall of Fame coach gained initial notoriety as a high school football player in 1955. He put his stamp on the gridiron as he established himself as the Central High School record holder for the most rushing touchdowns in a single game , with 5, as well as the most points scored in a single game by a player, with 30. This stellar performance earned Pickard a scholarship to Florida State University. As a standout running back at Florida State, Fred Pickard was most notable for scoring the very first touchdown against the Florida Gators in the history of the FSU vs UF rivalry in 1959. That same season he also led FSU to victory against Tennessee, which was its first win against an SEC team. Pickard’s sensational efforts earned him an honorable mention All-American spot in 1959 as well. Pickard  finished his collegiate career as FSU’s all-time leading rusher with 339 carries for 1,546 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns and he received his FSU Hall of Fame honors in 1982.

 

After his playing days were over, Fred Pickard began coaching high school football in Jacksonville, FL. at Terry Parker high school as an assistant coach under Aaron Brown in 1963. He later took on and maintained the head coaching role at Parker from 1967 through 1974. Advancing his coaching career early in an effort to move closer to home, Pickard later took a coaching gig as the linebacker’s coach for the University of Tennessee-Martin and worked his way up the ladder to become head ball coach from 1982-1985. 

 

One year later, Fred Pickard returned back to Jacksonville to serve a short term as the athletic director at Englewood High school then went back to Terry Parker, once again as head coach in 1987. His tough coaching methods of smash-mouth football led the Braves to an undefeated regular season in 1992 which ended in a last minute loss to Daytona Seabreeze with a 60 yard field goal made by former 1st round pick and FSU standout kicker, Sebastian Janikowski . After contemplating retirement, Fred Pickard had firm beliefs that he could achieve the ultimate goal in high school football, which is to win the state championship. So “Coach Pick” made a bold and confident decision to, as our youth would say, “run it back”. In a strong effort to achieve his goal, Pickard managed to lead his team to a second consecutive undefeated regular season. 

From 1991 to 1993, Pickard’s Braves had a record of 28-5 lead by running back Steve Mosley who rushed for over 5,000 yards in those 3 seasons. Pickard was able to help 22 of his players earn college scholarships in 1993. He was also able pass down part of his legacy to the future Braves by being a major influence in building the field house that is still currently being used. “ Coach Pick was one of the most caring guys you could ever meet. He was a great motivator and I loved his pre-game speeches. He treated all his players the same no matter what and never cut a player but discipline was one of the things he was most serious about,” said former player Center David Roberts, who played center for Pickard from 1991-1993. It is widely recognized that “Coach Pick” held some of the toughest training camp practices with two-a-days 6 days a week from 8 am to noon and again from 2 pm to 6 pm. 

 

These types of coaches are necessary in order to bring top tier football back to the northeast Florida region. If more of our current coaches took a page or two from his book and started teaching their players hard work, dedication and discipline, the student-athletes in this city would get the recognition they deserve. The celebration of life for Fred Pickard will be held from 2-5 pm on January 22, 2022 at Quinn-Shalz funeral home in Jacksonville Beach.

About the Author

Vaughn Foster