SHRINE MAPLE SUGAR BOWL
Pickowicz sees the big picture
Franklin grad savors honor
During his four years and 42 varsity football games at Franklin High, Brian Pickowicz never missed a start. As a freshman in 2008, he was the Golden Tornadoes tight end as they went 11-0 and won the Division VI title. After that, he added linebacker to his job description and was a three-year, two-way starter. So Pickowicz was no stranger to fatigue or pain, and when he needed an extra bit of motivation last fall to keep fighting game after game, he had some stashed away.
"I would try not to think about making it to the Shrine game, so I could just focus about what I needed to do for our team, but it was always kind of in the back of my mind," Pickowicz said. "I really wanted to push myself to my limits so I could get one of those three Division VI spots on the Shrine team. That was always a personal
goal of mine."
Goal achieved. Pickowicz was selected as one of the top senior football players in the state and tomorrow he'll play defensive end for New Hampshire as it faces Vermont in the 59th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Dartmouth College. Pickowicz won't start, but New Hampshire Coach Mike Beliveau of Souhegan has said everyone will see plenty of playing time after putting in the work during practice the last two weeks at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden.
"I've had an absolute blast, I've been pushing myself as hard as I can and I feel confident going into the game that I can at least compete at the level I'm used to competing at," said Pickowicz, who was selected to the 2011 D-VI First Team Defense after leading Franklin to an 8-3 record and a semifinal berth. "I think whatever chance I have to get on the field I'll make the most of my opportunity and show people what I have."
It may have been a "personal" goal for Pickowicz to reach the Shrine game, but there's more to it than just individual pride.
"Franklin is not Exeter, it's not Souhegan, it's not one of those schools, but football is very important to the town, it's very important to the atmosphere there," Pickowicz said. "So I felt the pressure to push myself to get to that level to reach the Shrine game because I really wanted to be able to represent the town one last time."
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Pickowicz doesn't want to just represent Franklin, he wants to represent. So, after winning the Division III Baseball Player of the Year award in the spring, he ran, lifted and put in the extra time to learn the fundamentals of defensive end, a position he never played in high school.
"I've tried to learn how to be a complete defensive end, not just an outside linebacker playing defensive end," Pickowicz said. "So I worked a lot with Coach (Jeff) Kaplan - he's one of my favorite coaches - and he really showed me what I needed to know about being a defensive lineman. And he got me ready for the Shrine game, what I should expect, what I need to do if I want to play, all those things."
Not only does Pickowicz understand the greater significance of playing for his school and community (he's actually from neighboring Hill), he's also grasped the larger meaning of the Shrine game, which is to raise money and awareness for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Sure, he wants to win and help keep intact New Hampshire's 11-game winning streak, but he understands there's more happening here.
"You have to look at the bigger picture," said Pickowicz, who said it was "moving and humbling" to visit the hospital in Springfield, Mass., last Sunday. "The game isn't about winning as much as it is about the cause, and how important it is to raise all this money and bring attention,"
This is coming from someone who is so competitive that he feels remorse for "only" going 29-13 in his high school football career, from someone who kicked himself after throwing a no-hitter this spring because it wasn't a perfect game. Still, as competitive as he is, there's no question Pickowicz understands the bigger picture. His parents, John and Leigh Ann, deserve credit there. But Brian also gained some of that perspective during his freshman year at Franklin when he became close with assistant coach Kevin Laughy. Laughy was already in the final stages of cancer in the fall of 2008, but that didn't stop him from coaching, encouraging and inspiring players until he died on Oct. 22.
"His death was an absolute moving point for me. He shouldn't have been coming to practices, but he was always there and always giving it his all," Pickowicz said. "So when you see someone like that, in that situation, giving everything they have, you better be giving it your all, too."
Pickowicz will bring that heady perspective with him to St. Anselm College this fall. As much as he would love to play college football (or perhaps baseball), he's decided to give athletics a break. Instead, he'll throw himself into academics and politics. He was the president of his senior class at Franklin, and he plans to major in political science and get involved in clubs and campaigns in the fall. He may go back to sports eventually, but first he wants to get a better look at that bigger picture.
"I want to do things on my own terms and get the most out of my education and see what's out there," Pickowicz said. "My goal in my life isn't to be a supreme athlete, my goal in life is to make the world a better place."
(Tim O'Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or email@example.com.)