During his eight seasons with the then-Los Angeles Raiders, defensive tackle Bill Pickel played in Super Bowl XVIII as a rookie, was selected to play in the 1986 Pro Bowl, and in 1990, played in the AFC Championship Game.
Through it all, he was the guy from Queens who, like his brothers George, Jim, and Christopher, played college football at Rutgers.
In 1991, he came home.
"When I came back with the Raiders (during the offseasons), I was living in my father's house. And then the first house I bought was across the street from where I grew up," said Pickel, who signed with the Jets as a Plan B free agent. "So having the opportunity to come to the Jets, if I wasn't going to stay with the Raiders, why would I not want to come to New York."
Besides family and friends, there was someone else with a Silver & Black connection who was happy to see Pickel playing for the Green & White.
"When I got drafted by the Raiders, Ron Wolf was working in personnel there. And when I signed with the Jets, he was with the Jets (as the director of player personnel)," Pickel said. "I would say absolutely he was a factor in my signing with New York."
A seasoned veteran, Pickel felt he was looked upon by Jets defensive coordinator Pete Carroll to be a leader on the field and in the locker room.
"At that time, you had Dennis Byrd, you had Jeff Lageman, Marvin Washington, Scott Mersereau, Paul Frase, there were a bunch of young defensive linemen. So I think a little mentorship," Pickel said.
"I always thought Pete was a great coach. He was a great defensive coordinator and it doesn't appear that he changed going to a head coach (of the Seattle Seahawks). A lot of times, when people go from position coaches to coordinator positions to head coaches, personalities change. But he seemed to handle it pretty good. He seems to be a player's coach. I know he has former players come up and speak with the Seahawks. He's been extremely, extremely successful."
With the Jets for the final four years of his 12-year career, Pickel retired in 1995 having played in 174 games and collecting 56 sacks. He left the game with fond memories from his time in New York, and proud of what he accomplished on the field.
"The organization, I liked everybody. The Hamptons in the equipment room. Kyle Clifton, all of that," Pickel said. "I roomed with Jeff Lageman. I roomed with Scott Mersereau. I still speak to Kenny O'Brien quite often. Our families, we have children the same age. He was at my daughter's wedding. I was at his daughter's wedding. So some lifelong friends that I made from my days with the Jets.
"I just think you come to work every day and do your job. I think one of the biggest differences in the NFL now, I never fancied myself an entertainer. I never looked at it that way. I was a football player. It's something I wanted to do from the time I was a young boy. To have the opportunity to do that for 12 years was more than I could have asked for."
Making his home in the South Salem, NY, Pickel and his wife, Karol, have three adult children: William, Katherine, and Jameson. For over 20 years, he has worked in private aviation, and is the vice president of operations for Wheels Up.
"I worked with Gama Aviation; we were managing the aircrafts for the Wheels Up program. And Wheels Up purchased the company along with several others last year," Pickel said. "Our offices are in Shelton, Connecticut. Wheels Up's main office is in Manhattan. A vast number of people are working remotely. I've been in the office throughout the pandemic and I'm the supervisor here on a daily basis with the mission planners.
"The camaraderie we have (is what I enjoy most about my job). I hired the operations group, quite a few of the people from the former company that I worked at. I know about teamwork and I know how to build a team to run the business that we're in. It's been very good for me and my family."
Continuing to be good for the game of football, 36 years after hanging up his helmet, Pickel is the defensive line coach at John Jay High School in Cross River.
"This is my 20th season. I had the opportunity to work with a coaching staff from his first year and watch these guys mature and become some of the finest football coaches around," Pickel said. "These guys do all the game planning. They break down all the film. Countless, countless hours for high school football. It's unbelievable. You can spend as much as you want. Everything is readily available. The only thing that I wish high school football would do is make it mandatory that you have to exchange quality film."