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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Aggie legend Billy Pickard dies at 81

Billy Pickard
PROVIDED
Aggieland yearbook
Billy Pickard PROVIDED

Billy Pickard, an Aggie football mainstay since the days of the Junction Boys, died at 12:05 a.m. Monday after suffering a stroke.
His son, Kevin Robert, said the timing of his father’s death was fitting.
“Typical of dad,” Robert said. “He wanted to spend one more day in Aggieland.”
Pickard, Class of 1956, worked with nine A&M coaches, beginning with Bear Bryant, in his 60 years with the program. He signed on as a trainer as a freshman in 1952 and formally retired as a senior associate athletic director in 2009, but the 81-year-old maintained his presence with the athletics department until his death.
After Bryant took his new squad to the small Hill Country town of Junction, Texas on Sept. 1, 1954 for a 10-day training camp, the “survivors” became known as the Junction Boys. Pickard — who was with the A&M program for 60 of its 120 years — was one of those survivors, an Aggie legend who never played a down of football.
“At Junction, there were no clouds in the sky,” Pickard said in a 2008 interview with The Battalion. “It was very bright the whole time, even at night. I was the student trainer back then. I got there before they did and left after them. We took 72 players and only brought back 34, all in 10 days.”
Pickard, known as “Pick” to many, served in a variety of roles at Texas A&M. He joined the program on a full-time basis in 1965 as head athletic trainer. He became an assistant athletic director under head coach Jackie Sherrill and retired as senior associate athletic director for facilities. He even contributed as a strength training coach along the way. Even though he formally retired in 2009, Pickard would still be on campus promptly at 6 a.m. to see how things were going at Kyle Field.
“I first met Billy in December 1971,” said former A&M head coach R.C. Slocum. “There has never been a more passionate employee at A&M in its history. When I was first here, he was a strength coach, equipment manager, everything. He did it all, and he did it with great passion. When I became head coach, I never worried about anything where Billy was in charge.”
Sherrill said Pickard’s death marks the loss of an icon.
“To try to put it in perspective, when you ask anyone about A&M, the person who stands out would be Gen. Rudder,” Sherrill said. “But if you ask any of the former players, it will be Pickard. When you look at former students, to them [Rudder] was important. To the players, the biggest was Pickard. Losing a person who to the players meant so much, you’re losing an icon at Texas A&M.”
Pickard maintained a relationship with the players throughout his life.
“He was always trying to do things to liven it up with the players,” Slocum said. “When we used to play Arkansas in November, it would be cold, but Billy would run out there in nothing but a jockstrap and start hollering about the pigs at Arkansas to add humor to workouts. He was a fun guy who the players loved … He was a very remarkable guy.”
Pickard gained attention in 1999 when he expressed his displeasure with the new pedestrian passageway under Wellborn Road on the northwest side of Kyle Field. As he would later admit, it was a great idea, and he used it every day in his walk to Kyle Field. Because of him, the walk is now known as “Pickard’s Passageway.”
In six decades roaming the Aggie sideline, Pickard saw more change in Aggie football than any other. He was there for the good times and the bad.
“I sat on the bench for the first and last game in G. Rollie, and the first game in Reed,” Pickard said in 2008. “I won’t be around for the last game in Reed.”
Likewise, the man most familiar with the ins and outs of Kyle Field won’t be around to see its finished renovation in 2015.
Pickard attended his last football practice Thursday.
“It’s even more difficult because we were talking four days ago, and he wanted to come out for our first padded practice,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “He said, ‘I’ll skip the first couple, that’s not real football. If you get me a chair, I’ll come out there Thursday,’ and he did. He came up here and sat at the 20 yard line. It’s a tough deal, but at least Thursday he was here for his 51st spring football practice.”
Few people in Aggie lore have contributed more service to the institution than Pickard. His presence and contributions will not soon be forgotten.
There will be a visitation from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at Hillier Funeral Home in Bryan, Texas. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in the MSC Bethancourt Ballroom.

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    Aggieland yearbook

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