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El Cerrito High School football player Adarius Pickett is photographed as the the East Bay Football Player of the Year at the school in El Cerrito, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

EL CERRITO -- With a last name like Pickett, El Cerrito High's star senior was clearly destined to be a ball-hawking defender.

A cornerback headed to UCLA, Adarius Pickett lived up to his nickname "Pick-Six" this season, hauling in nine interceptions and returning three for touchdowns.

But he was far from just a defensive standout. Pickett rarely came off the field during a special season for the Gauchos' football team, making significant contributions on offense, defense and special teams.

His versatility earned him Bay Area News Group East Bay Football Player of the Year honors and helped El Cerrito complete its best season in school history.

It's no coincidence that El Cerrito's season took off when Pickett shifted from slot receiver to running back at the start of Tri-County Athletic League-Rock Division play.

He said he proposed the position change after the team started the season 2-2.

"I said if you give me an opportunity, I can play at running back," Pickett said. "That's what I've been doing all my life, so I feel comfortable playing the position."

His most impressive game came inthe North Coast Section Division III championship, when he rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns in a 54-38 victory over defending champion Marin Catholic-Kentfield.

Pickett also set the tone for the Gauchos' postseason run, which ended with a loss in the CIF Northern Regional Division III final, by returning the opening kickoff of their first playoff game for an 84-yard touchdown.

"This year was all about getting the ball into his hands," offensive coordinator Donny Davis said. "He was on fire. Normally our running back doesn't touch the ball as much as he touched it this year."

El Cerrito High School football player Adarius Pickett is photographed as the the East Bay Football Player of the Year at the school in El Cerrito, Calif.
El Cerrito High School football player Adarius Pickett is photographed as the the East Bay Football Player of the Year at the school in El Cerrito, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

The season was also about completing some unfinished business -- for the team and for his own family. Pickett's father, Antoine, played in an NCS championship game with El Cerrito before graduating in 1984, but his team fell short of the title.

"It meant to a lot to us as a team, and it meant a lot to me personally," Adarius said of the Gauchos' historic season.

Also a standout on the baseball field (he hit .400 and stole 28 bases last season), Pickett will play in next week's Semper Fidelis All-American game. He'll graduate from El Cerrito with a 3.9 GPA in late January and enroll early at UCLA when spring quarter begins in March.

His coaches are confident he'll do well at the next level. Not only was he blessed with raw talent, they rave about his work ethic, leadership and smarts.

"He's a do-it-all kid on and off the field," El Cerrito head coach Kenny Kahn said.


El Cerrito High School football player Adarius Pickett is photographed as the the East Bay Football Player of the Year at the school in El Cerrito, Calif.
El Cerrito High School football player Adarius Pickett is photographed as the the East Bay Football Player of the Year at the school in El Cerrito, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)