The Bears on Friday bolstered their defense by selecting South Carolina defensive tackle Zacch Pickens with the 64th pick in the third round of the draft.
The 6-4, 300-pounder appeared in 47 games with 32 starts in four seasons for the Gamecocks, registering 131 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks.
Last year, Pickens was honored as South Carolina's Most Outstanding Senior, team MVP and defensive MVP. He also was presented the Rex Enright Team Captains Award after starting all 12 games and registering 42 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks.
At T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S.C., Pickens was named the South Carolina Gatorade Football Athlete of the Year and the state's Mr. Football as a senior after leading the Yellow Jackets to a 14-1 record and a berth in the 5A state championship game.
After excelling in high school and college, Pickens is excited about entering the NFL.
"I'm ready to learn and grow," he said during a Zoom call with the Chicago media. "I still haven't reached my potential yet and I haven't even reached that mark. I'm ready to learn from everybody that's in the organization. I'm excited and ready to be part of the team."
Pickens watched the draft with family and friends at a Top Golf location in Greensville, S.C.
"I couldn't eat, I couldn't do anything," he said. "I swung like twice, but I was really nervous. I was trying to figure out where I was going and I was just getting in my head, worrying about where I was going. I just had a lot of thoughts in my head and all that went away when I got the call from the [Bears]."
Pickens already feels comfortable with the Bears after meeting with them at the Combine. In an attempt to put nervous prospects at ease, general manager Ryan Poles installed a putting green and dartboard in the team's suite in Indianapolis.
"When I got there for the Combine, they were the main ones to take me in," Pickens said. "They kept me relaxed. I just enjoyed being in that room. I'm proud to say I'm a Bear. They really just made it comfortable. They didn't ask me too many crazy questions. They didn't try to scare me or anything. They wanted me to be me, and I'm glad they let me do that."
Pickens can't wait to begin working with his new teammates in Chicago.
"I'm going to bring my everything," he said. "I'm so pumped. I'm just going to bring myself. I'm going to bring a lot to the team. It's just everything that I've learned from the guys and try to help the team win the best that I can. That's the only thing I know how and that's the only thing I've been growing off of and that's the only thing I'm going to show."
Pickens is convinced that he can be more productive in the NFL than he was at South Carolina.
"I'm going to be 10 times better than I was in college," he said. "I never had a consistent coach. I didn't have a consistent coach in high school either. I've been bounced around and just taking stuff in bits and pieces with each coach I learned from. I was grateful that I had coach [Shane] Beamer for two years. But I haven't reached the level I could be, and I'm definitely going to hold myself accountable to everything I do, especially going to the Bears. I'm going to be at my peak and make sure I've got everything right.
"I'm going to be more accountable, holding myself to a higher standard than I did ever when I was in college."
Pickens' primary focus is on stuffing the run.
"I feel like once you stop the run, you can always be able to pass rush," he said. "A lot of people don't really think about it until it's too late. I get mad and aggressive about stuff in the run, and that's one thing I know y'all like doing and that's one thing I'm going to bring. I'm going to bring, my juice, bring everything—my happiness, my smile, my everything to the team."
Pickens believes that he possesses unlimited potential.
"I can be one of the greatest if I check all my boxes," he said. "If I do everything right—and I know I will—I can be one of the greats. And I'm not holding back. I'm so for real. If I check all the boxes and when I do check all the boxes, I promise you I'm going to be the best defensive interior tackle. And that's exactly what I'm going to bring – my best each and every day."
With the 64th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bears select South Carolina defensive lineman Zacch Pickens.