Running back shows hard work is more important than hard hitsPublished 2:22pm Saturday, November 2, 2013
He dragged three or four defenders as he ran through a hole in the line, the football tucked safely in his arm. His tree trunk-sized legs churned, not giving in to the hundreds of pounds of weight he was pulling behind him. Finally he broke free, danced forward a few more yards and crossed the goal line. That’s another six points for the Bearcats scored by number 29. The opponent rolled their heads back in frustration.
Dameon Pierce, or “D” as his friends call him, gets comments about his body all the time. People talk about how strong he is or how much money he’ll make in the NFL someday. At 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, his size is hard to ignore, especially for a 13-year-old.
He tries not to let it get to his head. When he’s in the weight room working on reps, stronger muscles aren’t Pierce’s goal. A stronger work ethic is.
“I’m not trying to get bigger,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. Growing in size is almost an afterthought for him. “I’m just building that work ethic so when I’m on the field, I can put into my brain not to give up on this play or take a play off. I’m doing everything I can to help my team win a game.”
Eighth grade football coach Heith Maxwell always knew Pierce had talent. But it’s his drive to continue to improve that impressed Maxwell the most.
“It’s very rare to have your best player also be your hardest worker,” Maxwell said. “Coaching him has been a pleasure.”
Pierce’s work ethic isn’t solely channeled into sports. He puts forth the effort in the classroom, too. The pressure of being a star athlete and earning good grades can be overwhelming for an eighth grader, but Pierce has a way of controlling himself. It’s important for him to focus on staying humble. He tells himself that if he continues to keep his head up and work hard, “then good things will come down the road.”
Right now, “down the road” is high school football.
Every Friday night home game, Pierce is at Centennial Field watching the Bearcats. He studies varsity running backs Aaron Calloway and Craig Cooper, learning how they move and what to expect when he gets his chance to play.
“I’m really excited about him, mainly because he’s such a hard worker,” Bearcats head coach Jeff Littleton said. “Nothing can replace hard work. He still has some growing and maturing to do, but he has a great personality and people love to be around him”
Littleton said that it was rare for a freshman to be both physically and mentally ready to play varsity football, but there’s always a chance, pointing to starting freshman lineman Christian Glover as an example.
“Hopefully I’ll play varsity,” Pierce said. “Then I’ll want to get big. But if I play JV, I’m fine with that, too. I’m just waiting for my time.”
On Sundays and Monday nights, it’s all about Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. Pierce watches highlight clips of both for inspiration.
“He will never go down,” Pierce said about Lynch’s ability to drive the football. “He’ll never give up a play. That’s how I want to be. He can run up the middle and have the whole team on him, and he can still go for the end zone.”
Talking about his role models puts a certain sense of awe in Pierce’s voice. But he makes clear that watching the pros isn’t a mindless leisure activity.
“I’m not watching for entertainment,” he said. “I’m studying it.”
Football is everything to Pierce. He has the drive to get better. It’s always on his mind, and it always has been. When other kids were out playing basketball and baseball, Pierce was by himself in his backyard, playing football. Even when playing basketball, he envisions the court as a football field.
“I’m catching interceptions and picking up fumbles,” Pierce said. “When I’m on offense, I use my feet and make cuts to get open so I can make a shot.”