Teammates cheering for Picton, as Riders’ homegrown receiver finally reaps reward

If you were to ask the average CFL fan to list through the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ talented crop of receivers, you’d likely find Mitchell Picton to be the odd man out.

Most would be quick to name American stars like Shaq Evans, Kyran Moore and Jordan Williams-Lambert. The more well-informed might cite the burgeoning hype around young Canadian Brayden Lenius, but outside of Regina, few know the homegrown receiver who started for the team last week.

It wasn’t Picton’s first action for the Riders, having played two games for the team in 2019, nor is the Regina native new to his hometown club, having been drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 CFL Draft. However, the three catches for 36 yards he was able to produce in his debut start were the first of his career and while it was little more than a statistical footnote for anyone other than his more than 50 friends and family in attendance, Picton’s teammates were cheering.

That’s because while Mitchell Picton is far from a household name, he’s long done the little things behind the scenes that have supported those that are.

“Pic [sic], that’s my dog right there. When I first came in my rookie year, in training camp I was struggling with the playbook for a long time and Pic was the one who was always next to me,” electric receiver Kyran Moore said, beaming when asked about his teammate.

“If I didn’t know it, Pic knew everything, the whole offence. So Pic helped me, he was telling me what to do on plays, you know what I’m saying? Even now that the roles have flipped, to be honest, sometimes he still be helping me out.”

That was their first season together in 2018, when Moore was fresh out of Austin Peay University. Picton himself was hardly a seasoned veteran, having experienced just one training camp in 2017 before returning for a fifth season with the University of Regina Rams. Still, he took it upon himself to help guide his American teammate.

“We kind of started around the same time. We came in trying to learn a new playbook in the CFL and the Canadian game was very new to him,” Picton recalled.

“It was a steep learning curve for both of us and it’s a team game. Receivers are playing side by side, so you both have to know what you’re doing if either of you want to be successful. We had a lot of long meetings and spent a lot of time in the film room together getting the book down, so we’ve spent a lot of time together and have a great relationship.”

The two toiled together on the practice roster, running one-on-ones after every practice to test whichever new DBs former head coach Chris Jones brought in that week. Soon, Moore was on the active roster and broke out in 2019, racking up 996 yards receiving and six touchdowns.

“He’s dangerous. Every time he has the ball in his hands, it can go to the house. He’s a very dangerous player and he’s come so far since he came here with the playbook,” Picton said. “He really is a true vet now. He knows the playbook, he understands the game and he knows the coverage. He’s been doing an incredible job for us.”

The local kid played an understated role in that success, just as he’s done for others. Even the miraculous transformation of Brayden Lenius this offseason, the 26-pound weight loss that saw him star in training camp and score in Week 1, came after an offseason spent working out alongside Picton, driving each other to be better.

Soft-spoken and rarely in the spotlight, Picton has become a glue guy for the Riders, a fact not lost on his head coach.

“He’s always been that sort of player. That’s one of the reasons that I think he’s endeared himself to the fans in Saskatchewan and also to our staff and our team. He works hard, he doesn’t say much, and he shows up every day and gives you everything he’s got. That’s the definition of a pro football player right there,” Craig Dickenson raved.

“He studies, it’s important to him and he takes care of his body. He makes sure that when he gets on that field for either practice or a game he’s in the best shape that he can be in and he gives you the best he’s got. He’s a true pro and a pleasure to have out there.”

It’s exactly that understated attitude that makes Picton fly under the radar. There will never be any hyping up of the first start from the Canadian himself. It was a special moment, but performing was simply the expectation.

“I’ve played a lot of football in my time, so once I got out there again, it was just another game,” Picton said, downplaying what amounted to his coming out party as a CFL player. “It felt good to get out there and be playing again and at the end of the day, just contributing to a win is all that matters.”

The excitement will instead have to come from his teammates, those who witnessed the things he’s done behind the scenes when fans and media weren’t watching.

“Seeing Pic out there just doing his thing, it made me feel some type of way,” Kyran Moore grinned, talking about his friend finally getting a chance to catch passes. “I really was cheering for Pic, almost more than for myself, for real. Because of the story behind it.”

Must Read