The origins of Dameon Pierce Part 3

Published 9:02 am Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The national attention that had started to build after Dameon Pierce’s freshman season, reached a fever pitch as he finished the season with 2060 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading the Bearcats to the state semifinals. The kid who had gone to the MVP camp the summer before and been a mystery that few had heard of, was suddenly wanted by the top programs in the country.

“The second semester of sophomore year and [the mailbox has] been full since,” Pierce said of when he got his first letter from a college. “I held it up and I was like ‘it’s got my name on it?’ and I was like I’ve done made it now. That first one was from Clemson. It was orange with a white paw and it had Dameon Pierce on it.”

“I have to go through all of his mail to get to my mail,” his mom added. “Every time I go to the mailbox it is stacked with papers. I know the mailman is tired of us.”

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After the letters started to arrive the scholarship offers quickly followed. 

“Coach Fountain, that’s my recruiting coordinator [at Auburn], he shook my hand and he said we want you here, we’d be glad to have you,” Pierce said. “My brother was with me and he was like they just offered you. Then it was on some recruiting website that Dameon Pierce has an offer from Auburn.”

Offers from Florida State, Georgia, Stanford, Clemson and eventually Alabama followed quickly behind. 

“This is the first time I’ve ever been through a process like this,” Littleton said. “He has over 20 overs. My phone rings a lot and we have a lot of visitors come through here and wanting to see him and wanting to talk to him.”

Pierce had been a star in his hometown from the first day he put on pads, but now he is one of the top prospects in the country and a player that every blue blood program wants.

“I can see why they want him because he’s mine,” Pierce’s mother Shameeka Rogers said. “It’s pride that all the hard work in raising him is worth it because he is turning out to be a great young man… That is what I want for him, the education. I’m focused on him getting the education. While you’re in college invest in football, but get your education as well.”

FSU coaches Jimbo Fisher and Charles Kelly have come by the high school. Coaches from Miami, Michigan State, Stanford, Florida and others have made the road trip to Bainbridge to sell Pierce on why their program is the best one for him.

“They all start the same, ‘hey, how are you doing,’” Pierce said of the meetings with coaches. “They asked personal questions and how my mama is doing. Then they talk about the school itself. Like we run this type of offense. We think you would fit well. Then they say their goodbyes and that’ll be it.”

As the coaches continued to stop by and the offers poured in, Pierce started the process of wading through where he was interested in going and where he wasn’t. He was a Georgia boy, but wasn’t a huge fan of the campus at UGA. Kirby Smart had sold him on Alabama for years, but he was no longer there.

“I was going to wait until I had eight [offers] so I could start deciphering through them,” Pierce said. “Then the next thing I knew I had 18 of them. Coach Littleton pulled me to the side. He didn’t want to rush me or anything, but he wanted me to start thinking about a top five and which schools I would want to go to and start looking into it.”

From the beginning Alabama and Florida State stood out from the pack and then Clemson, Stanford, Michigan, Georgia and Auburn were grouped together behind his top two.

“I wanted to go to Florida State, but my mama said if I stay close to home I’ll be tempted to come by and get in trouble,” Pierce said.

Then he decided to take the plunge. Before the start of his junior season, Pierce decided that he was going to commit to Alabama in a move the surprised both his coaches and his mom.

“We were sitting here at the house and he just came up to me and he said mom I’m fixing to commit to Alabama and I just looked at him and I was like what,” Rogers said. “And I said we got to talk about this. So he had this look on his face like O’ goodness. I said wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. We have not discussed this. I threw a fit. It was ugly at our house that day.”

Pierce was convinced though, even if his mom was not.

“I wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way before I went into that next season,” he said. “I just wanted to focus on my high school team so I just went ahead and committed… They’ve got great running backs. They’ve got a great running backs coach, Coach Burns. I’ve been cool with him since I was in eighth grade.”

“I had not talked to these people so he got on the phone and called the offensive line coach at Alabama and put him on speakerphone and we talked to him,” his mom continued. “I said I have not discussed this with my son and this is just a random decision. I told him I am not supporting this yet… I think it was an impulse decision and I wanted us to go out and do some visits so I could get a feel for what the schools were like. I wanted to whip Dameon.”

With the added pressure of a commitment and national attention as well as the desire to top his sophomore season, Pierce’s junior season was shaping up to be a very important one for his future. And then he got hurt.

In Bainbridge’s second preseason scrimmage, Pierce sprained his ankle and for the first time since he was signed up as a seventh grader was told he couldn’t play football for at least a little while.

“When I first hurt it, as long as I could walk on it I was happy that I just sprained it,” Pierce said. “I was thankful for it and making the best of bad situation.

Littleton added, “He had never been really hurt so he’d never sat out a game. It took him a while to understand and get himself going again because he had never been through that.”

The injury plagued him throughout the season, but when he wasn’t on the field the team struggled so he forced himself to get back on the field.

“I was sad watching my boys play without me, practice without me and having to sit out those weeks,” he said. “I really hurt myself because I feel like I came back too early. It bothered me all year. My team needed me and I had a role to fill and I tried to fill it.”

On the days the ankle felt right, Pierce was the same dominant player he had been since the beginning including back-to-back games with over 300 yards. On the days it bothered him, he was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch his teammates fight without him.

The season as a whole wasn’t what he planned, but Pierce still managed to break the school’s career rushing mark in only two and a half season and rush for over 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns.

“That injury lingered on him all year long,” Littleton said. “It came and went. He ended up still with a great year.”

Even with the injury, his junior season performance was enough that the letters have continued to pour in and Pierce has solidified himself as one of the best running backs in the country for his class.

“It is no surprise that the schools like the Bamas, the Auburns, the Georgias, Florida States the Clemson, the Floridas, all those southeast powers want him,” Nee said. “I’ve had the opportunity to see Zamir White, Lorenzo Lingard, James Cook and Dameon; I think that is four of our top five in the composite for that class. He is super impressive. They only guys I have seen that I would clearly put above him are Zamir White and Lorenzo Lingard. I think he is a guy that can easily compete for being a top three or four back in the country.”

As his team filled off Centennial Field for the final time this season, Pierce signed his last few autographs on the plastic footballs that were handed to him and did an interview about carrying his team to the next round of the playoffs. Their season ended the next week at the hands of the eventual state champions, but Pierce gave the team everything he had as he had all season long, injured ankle and all.

He has one more year of high school left to make an impression and prepare for his future. He is committed to Alabama, but nothing is set in stone and in the coming months he will have to make tough decisions about how his high school career will end and where he will continue to play, even if that means leaving behind a community that has rooted for him for nine years.

“I was born and raised in Bainbridge,” Pierce said. “That is a lot to walk away from. All the records I’ve left. All the memories I’ve made…At the end of the day, everybody will support my decision one way or another. It will be sad that I’m not a Bearcat, but at least they will know I’m going somewhere where I can better myself.”

The crowd that followed his entire career dispersed. He grabbed his pads and followed his teammates off the field as the lights on the field dimmed and the scoreboard went black for the final time this season. The decisions that lay ahead could wait for another day. His team had won and for now that was the only thing that mattered. It was the reason he fell in love with the game in the first place.

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