Pierce closing in on Hens’ all-time rushing record
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 21:10
The past four seasons have been a roller coaster for the Delaware football team. From a one-point loss in the 2010 National Championship Game to a 5-6 season in 2012 that led to the hiring of a new coach, a lot has happened. Throughout the ups and downs, there has been one constant for the Hens, a guiding light that’s anchored the team’s offense on the field and emerged as its leader off of it.
That light is Andrew Pierce.
Pierce, commonly known as “AP,” is now in his senior year and will leave the team as one of the most decorated athletes in school history. He is third in school history in both rushing yards and touchdowns, with 4,161 yards and 39 touchdowns, and with at least five games to play, Pierce is not done making his mark on the record book.
Pretty impressive for a guy who received zero scholarship offers out of high school.
“I felt like I had a lot to prove, I still feel like I have a lot to prove every day,” Pierce said. “Not having a scholarship, felt I had a chip on my shoulder. A lot of schools in the CAA overlooked me.”
A graduate of the Class of 2009 from Cumberland Regional High School in New Jersey, Pierce said he chose Delaware because it was the only school to offer him an opportunity to walk on. Pierce grayshirted, meaning he came to campus in the spring of 2010 and started practicing with the team.
In the fall of 2010, Pierce took the CAA by storm. He set a school freshman record with 1,655 yards rushing, the most in the CAA, and was named a third-team All-American by The Sports Network. Delaware won 12 games and made it to the National Championship Game before losing, 20-19, in what Pierce described as a “heartbreaking” loss.
“You put so much work in, you be with these guys, they’re seniors, you be with them for I don’t know how many months it was, but we were together forever, and you go down there, come to the last game, and you lose by one point, so it was tough,” he said. “It was a humbling experience. It just shows you how much hard work you have to put in to get to that point.”
The following year, Pierce rushed for 1,279 yards and was a second-team All-CAA pick. In a sign of Pierce’s devotion to football and fitness, the tailback won the team award for being the individual most committed to weightlifting.
“I spend most of my time in the weight room,” he said. “If anybody asks you, I’m in there a lot. I’m not always lifting weights, but I’m trying to take care of my body.”
In 2012, Pierce missed two games due to injuries, but still finished with 721 rushing yards and a third-team All-CAA nod. He was also named a captain, an honor he received again for the 2013 season. Pierce said being named a captain by his teammates is a recognition of the work he does. Leadership, he said, is about the small things.
Delaware head coach Dave Brock said Pierce is the quintessential leader, someone who helps make everyone better not only on the field but off it.
“He is a guy who leads by example,” Brock said. “He goes out and does all the things that we preach in this program that are the most important things. He’s a quality citizen, he’s a leader on campus, he’s a visible person, he leads with his actions.”
Through the first six games of 2013, Pierce has 524 yards on the ground, placing him 427 away from the school record. Far more important to him, however, is the team’s 5-2 record.
The accolades he has received over the course of his career are nice, Pierce said, but it is the success of the team that drives him.
“This is my last year, we’ve got five more games left that are guaranteed, so I want to go out with a bang,” he said.
Whatever happens for the Hens over the next few weeks, Pierce’s career will be over by the time January rolls around. Pierce said his ultimate career goal is to play in the National Football League. Two of his favorite pro stars of all time—Walter Payton and Ray Rice—are tailbacks like himself, and he feels he has many of the skills of those players, he said.
Brock said his tailback is a physical runner with impressive quickness who can also help out in the passing game as both a receiver and a blocker and deserves to be considered a pro prospect.
Like personal statistics, the dream of playing in the NFL is something Pierce is not particularly focused on at the moment. Once the season ends, Pierce said he will start looking at training for the May draft.
For now, Pierce is content to remain with the Hens, who is he has given so much to over his career. His work as a leader, both in and outside of games, is a key part of what makes him great, senior running back Julian Laing said.
“He’s a great leader,” Laing said. “That’s why we all voted him as offensive captain. He’s basically a role model to a lot of players on the team, and he just leads by example.”