By Robert Wilson
Former New Orleans Saints quarterback, Super Bowl MVP and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees has influenced thousands over the past two decades to play quarterback.
One of those was little boy who grew up in Madison County named Emile Picarella. He weighed too much to play quarterback on his Peewee football team, due to weight regulations, but he has always wanted to be a quarterback because of Brees.
“I loved watching him play and I was the biggest Saints fan,” Picarella said. “I played center in peewee, and it wasn’t as much fun as quarterback.”
He finally got to play quarterback for the first time in the seventh grade at Madison St. Joseph. Today, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Picarella is a sophomore in high school and is rated as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the country in the Class of 2025.
Picarella and his St. Joe teammates open the season Friday night against Copiah Academy at St. Joe in Madison.
Many eyes in Metro Jackson, across Mississippi and around the nation will be watching every move he makes, every pass he throws, and every touchdown pass he completes this season.
Picarella is rated No. 7 in the country among pro-style quarterbacks in the Class of 2025 by qbhitlist.com. He has been offered by Ole Miss and Mississippi State from the SEC, Oklahoma State from the Big 12, Pittsburgh from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Akron from the Mid-American Conference. Many more Division I offers are expected to come over the next two years. He has been to camps at Ole Miss, LSU, Florida State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas.
As a freshman, Picarella completed 141 of 231 passes (61.0 percent) for 2,216 yards and 21 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 11 games for 4-7 St. Joe last season.
No one is predicting Picarella will be an NFL MVP and hold numerous NFL passing records like Brees, but he does possess some of Brees’ qualities: Great footwork, accuracy, knowledge of the game, confidence, outstanding teammate, poise, toughness, humble, keeps emotions in check.
“I really like how Brees played and how he carried himself on and off the field,” Picarella said. “I learned that accuracy and consistency are the most important things in a quarterback.”
“Emile was in the seventh grade when I got to St. Joe,” said first-year St. Joe coach Jason Moore, who was the defensive coordinator for three seasons before replacing John Bond as head coach this season. Moore was also the head junior high coach and came to St. Joe after retiring from coaching in public schools for 25 years in Rankin County.
“He was a good-sized kid, but the biggest thing was his great footwork. Emile had a head start on that. He is dedicated to the sport and works extremely hard. Emile has all the tools. He has a strong arm, a great mind and is a good leader. Emile doesn’t get too high or too low. He has poise. All this attention doesn’t affect Emile. He focused on his team. Emile is a great teammate. When he throws a touchdown pass, he gives all his offensive lineman and receivers high fives. Emile is tough. When Tri-County sacked him hard last year, he bounced back up and got ready for the next play. That was impressive.”
Private quarterback coach Wyatt Davis has been working with Picarella for the past two years.
“It’s rewarding to see a guy who continues to grow over the years,” Davis said. “Some things Emile has made a jump with is being more efficient with his footwork and anticipating throws in zones in defenses. His release and arm ability makes him special. There’s no doubt Emile will be a national recruit in the 2025 class. He’s very talented and checks every box. Emile’s a grinder and loves the game.”
St. Joe hasn’t had a winning season since 2017 and has had only two winning seasons in the past eight seasons.
But Moore and Picarella have high hopes this season. The Bruins’ roster has increased, will likely dress 42 players Friday night, an increase of 14 from last season. St. Joe has six returning starters each on offense and defense. Reggie Vaughn, a 6-2, 260-pound sophomore who Moore predicts “will be playing on Sundays one day,” anchors the Bruins’ defense at a defensive end position. Senior Carter Walker (6-1, 190 with 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash) is expected to be Picarella’s main target. St. Joe has five transfers, the biggest name being senior running back-wide receiver Million Kelly from MHSAA Class 6A Forest Hill. Kelly gained 1,258 all-purpose yards – a team-high 569 yards on 115 carries, a 4.9-yard average, and eight TDs, caught 28 passes for 429 yards and three TDs and had 260 yards on seven kickoff returns, a 37.6-yard average, and one TD – in nine games last season as a junior.
St. Joe finished second in the 32-team Fletcher Cox 7 on 7 Elite Camp put on by the Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman and Yazoo City native this summer. St. Joe was the smallest school in the event.
“We’ve had a good summer and are expecting good things from our team,” Moore said.
Said Picarella: “My main goal and team goal is to win a championship.”
With one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, St. Joe should make some noise this season.