The origins of Dameon Pierce Part 1

Published 2:22 pm Friday, December 23, 2016


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The still lit scoreboard shows no time remaining on the clock and the home team up 50-12 following a dominant performance. The teams have filed through the line trading handshakes and salutations of sportsmanship. The coaches have given their speeches and the visiting team has disappeared into the night, their season over in the first round of the state playoffs.

It is a night of celebration for the home team. A once maligned season has been turned around and they have survived to fight another day. Players pass through the locker room before heading home or stand surrounded by friends and family, relishing in the thrill of victory.

One player remains separated. He is not joyfully chatting with friends or hugging family members. No, the player who led his team to victory is too busy signing autographs. Kids, cheerleaders and adoring fans of all ages crowd around the star of the team hoping for the signature of a 16-year-old.

The crowds are nothing new for him though. Fans have been following his every play on the football field since his first game as a 7-year-old playing rec football. In the last two years that attention has spread. He is no longer just a local star, his name and abilities are now known nation wide.

This is the story of Dameon Pierce, a youth football prodigy, a Bearcat legend, an Alabama commit and one of the best high school running backs in the country.

He is called special, dominant and a natural. They talk about how strong he is, how fast he is and how hard he is to tackle. Fans and coaches alike have been trying to describe Dameon Pierce since he was 7-years-old and just starting to learn the game of football. From the beginning, he was the best player on the field and for many, they will never forget the first time they saw him play.

“It was two springs ago, the MVP Camp that they held in South Georgia,” 247 recruiting analyst Chris Nee said.

“Seeing him in middle school, we went out and watched him, and you could tell he was head and shoulders above everybody,” Bainbridge head coach Jeff Littleton said.

“I first met Dameon coaching 7-8 football,” Pierce’s youth coach Al Kelley said.

Before the praise and the records and scholarships offers, Shameeka Rogers just wanted to get her son out of the house. While other kids his age were outside roughhousing and getting dirty, her son Dameon was always in the house reading.

“He was one of those kids that didn’t like to go outside and play with other kids,” Rogers said. “He wanted to just stay in the house. He was kind of like a bookworm. He was a mama’s boy so he stayed in the house a lot. The other kids would be outside playing.”

Then she got the bright idea to sign him up for football after her neighbor signed his sons up to play through Leisure Services.  She hoped the sport would toughen him up and he would have no choice except to get out of the house and interact with other boys his age.

Rogers didn’t even tell Pierce that she was going to make him play football; she just went ahead and signed him up.

“He didn’t want to go,” Rodgers said of how Pierce reacted after she signed him up. “He was mad. He threw one of his little fits. He had his lips poked out. He was like he wasn’t going to go, he didn’t want to go, but I was like, “Yes you are.’”

Now nine years later, Pierce can’t help but chuckle when he thinks back to the moment his mom said he was going to play football.

“I wasn’t scared or nothing, because I had played football in the backyard before, but it was unexpected,” he said. “It was surprising that she actually signed me up without my consent. It paid off in the end, so I can’t really get mad at her.”

Pierce was placed on the team coached by Al Kelley, because he went to the same elementary school as Al’s son, Will. It proved to be a coup for the ages as from the very first day it was apparent that Pierce was going to be special.

“Back then, our youth football, we did it by schools and he was at Jones-Wheat and so was my son, Will. I first met Dameon coaching 7-8 football,” Kelley said. “We knew early on watching him that he was going to be special. He just had the natural abilities. He was just heads above everybody else.”

The plan to simply get her son out of the house had paid off quicker and better than Rogers could ever have expected. That first day, she was just hoping that he didn’t come home crying and demanding that he be allowed to quit, but from the moment he walked through the door after his first practice she knew that she had done the right thing.

“I had my fingers crossed the whole time he was at practice, because I was like if he comes home crying and upset it’s going to be a failure on my part because I sent him out there,” she said. “When he came home, he just had this look on his face so I was like thank you. I was just happy for him.”

Practice started with the fundamentals of the game and then they started the process of seeing where each kid would play on the field. Kelley handed Pierce a football in practice and told him to run towards the end zone. From that moment on, the rest is history. Pierce had found his niche. He was a running back and no one has been able to slow him down since.

“He said get the ball and run as fast as you can to the touchdown and I was good at doing that so it kind of stuck from there,” Pierce said of how he found his position. “I just didn’t feel like getting tackled. I didn’t feel like going home and being dirty. I wanted to get home, get out of my pads and go play. Not get home, get out of my pads and shower and repeat. I just wanted to go home with a win and run the football.”

It did not take long for word to spread like wildfire that something special was brewing on the rec football practice fields. By the time Pierce and his team played their first ever game, the crowds that still follow him today had started to appear.

“It started from practice when Al Kelley was telling everybody about him,” Rogers said. “Then he was like, ‘He’s good you’ve got to see him’. From the first game [Dameon] played, when the community started seeing the Leisure Services games we had so many fans come out. Where it used to be such a thin fan base, now everybody is coming out because they are wanting to see him play.”

Pierce was stronger than the other kids. He was faster than the other kids, and in the end he was simply better than any kid that had come through Leisure Services before or that has come through since.

“I’ve been in parks and rec for 30 years and Dameon was by far the most dominant kid that’s come through our program on both sides of the ball,” Kelley said. “He was just so strong. If you hit Dameon high you weren’t going to tackle him. That was from early on. He’s an exceptional athlete. Dameon put fear in kids at 7-8 years old. When he hit you, he hit you hard every play. It was the talk for the whole time he was in youth football that a lot of people knew he was going to be a special player if things kept continuing.”

And continue they did. The crowds that had showed up for his very first game to see the player that had been whispered about continued to come and continued to grow, even if the player that they were all there to see didn’t realize it was because of him.

“I didn’t know they were coming to watch me play,” Pierce said. “If I had known they were coming to watch me play I would have been scared and probably nervous. I just thought they were out there watching their kids.”

The legend of Dameon Pierce continued to grow as this one time bookworm turned into a football prodigy with big play after big play. There was the time when he was nine years old that he carried an opposing defender who had jumped onto his back into the end zone. There were the championships that Pierce led his team to every year that he played youth football.

“Jaylon tried to tackle Dameon,” Rogers said remembering a play that had happened seven years before. “He jumped on Dameon’s back and he just ran into the end zone with Jaylon on his back. It was funny because he was up on his back and just like it was nothing [Dameon] ran into the end zone.”

Pierce was still opposed to getting dirty, something he avoided by being nearly impossible to tackle, but his love for the game that he was originally introduced to against his will grew along with the crowds that came to see him and the accolades that were attached to his name.

“After we won the championship my first year,” Pierce said of when he first started to love football. “You work for something and you see it pay off in the end, you can’t help but love it.”

About Brandon O'Connor


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