Former CFL quarterback hired Friday as new running backs coach for Winnipeg

The student is now becoming the teacher.

After nine seasons in the Canadian Football League, former Del Norte High School star quarterback Buck Pierce announced his retirement this week.

Just three days later, Pierce was named running backs coach for the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a news conference Friday.

"I am extremely excited about it," Pierce said in a telephone interview with the Triplicate after the news conference. "It had always been in the back of my mind and I was hoping that I would get the opportunity when I stepped away from football to make the transition to coaching."

There was no shortage of organizations willing to give Pierce that opportunity.

"I had multiple offers throughout the CFL to coach," Pierce said. "The opportunity came up here in Winnipeg, where I have a home, and it has worked out great. I am excited about starting my new career."

Pierce has called Winnipeg home for four years, and it's where he met his fiancee.

He knows the Bombers organization well after playing for 3andfrac12; years in Winnipeg, as recently as last September before finishing his playing career with a return to the British Columbia Lions.

"I am familiar with the surroundings," Pierce said. "It is very important to me that I have the right people around me to help me learn and grow as a coach. What our general manager, Kyle Walters, has established here is a group of guys that are extremely knowledgeable, hardworking. It is an environment that is going to be conducive to me learning and helping the players get to where they want to get."

The Bombers are excited to be adding Pierce's experience to the staff.

"Buck has been through the trenches as a quarterback in this league. He has great experience and will be a valued asset to our coaching staff," said Winnipeg's rookie head coach, Mike O'Shea, at the news conference Friday. "He will be able to relate to our players very well, and the ability to add a former CFL quarterback to our staff was important to us. He will be a great teacher to our running backs and a strength to our offensive staff."

Pierce is looking forward to using the lessons learned throughout his playing career to mentor a new crop of young players.

"I have seen pretty much every situation imaginable," Pierce said. "I've been through adversity, I have won a lot of games and I know what it takes to win, be successful and have a good career. Another part of my job is to provide the players the best opportunity to succeed. To give them the tools that it takes to make this team and to have a good career. I want to be able to send them out on the field with the best opportunity possible to succeed."

Hard-nosed legacy

The 32-year-old signal caller played in 130 CFL games. Pierce finished with a career completion percentage of 64.2 percent, completing 1,200 of his 1,869 passes for 15,289 yards and 76 touchdowns while throwing 63 interceptions.

Pierce's legacy goes far beyond his statistics, however. Over the years, Pierce has ingratiate himself to teammates and fans alike with his unselfish and hard-nosed style of play.

"Buck was a fearless competitor who never hesitated to put his body on the line for our organization," said Wally Buono, B.C. Lions vice-president of football operations and general manager in a press release following Pierce's retirement Tuesday.

"It was that all or nothing style of play that really enamored Pierce to his coaches and teammates," wrote Russ Hobson of Global News Canada.

It was the only way he knew how to play.

"At a very young age, I was taught to play this game a certain way - that is 100 percent all the time," Pierce said. "That is something that I learned from my youth football coaches there in Crescent City growing up. No matter what position you play, you leave it all out there. Play every play like it is your last. I wanted to play that way. I am extremely competitive.

"I think it is kind of rare, especially in this day and age that you have a mindset like that at the quarterback position. I was proud and humbled that I was able to show that, and gain the respect of my peers and people across the country."

Living a dream

Pierce broke into the league in 2005 with the B.C. Lions. He served as the backup quarterback for the Lions in 2006 when they won the Grey Cup.

In 2010 Pierce moved to the Winnipeg Bombers to become the starter. In 2011, he led the Bombers to the Grey Cup before falling to B.C. Pierce began the 2013 season with the Bombers, but was traded back to the Lions midseason in what would be his final season as a player.

"There are lots of moments that I will remember," Pierce said. "If someone told me when I was coming out of high school that I would have an opportunity to play for almost a decade in the CFL, I would have laughed. I have been extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to do what I did. To play into my early 30s is extremely rare."

Pierce mentioned winning the 2006 Grey Cup with the B.C. Lions, and helping the Bombers rebound from a 4-14 2010 season to reach the championship game in 2011 as two of the highlights of his career. His fondest memories of his time as a player, however, will be the relationships that he developed.

"I have had so many great teammates," Pierce said. "I had the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the world and make lasting relationships and friendships. I have been able to live a childhood dream - playing football for a living, traveling all around the country and having the opportunity to support myself in the game I love is tremendous.

It wasn't all fun, however. Pierce battled injuries throughout his career that likely kept him from reaching his full potential.

"Football can take a lot away from you," Pierce said. "You travel a lot, there is no job security, it does a lot to your body, and I have been through it. But it is also extremely rewarding to be able to do what I have done and all the doors that it has opened up for me."

Pierce has also appreciated being able to share that experience with the people of Del Norte, who have supported him throughout his entire football career.

"I am truly blessed to have grown up in a place like Crescent City," Pierce said. "The coaches that I had and the support from everybody in that city that came to watch me in college (at New Mexico State) and at the pro level was awesome. They always supported the local guy. I can't thank everybody there, there are too many people to thank. It has been awesome."

Pierce graduated from Del Norte High School in 2000 and was inducted into the Del Norte Hall of Fame in 2010.

He was a three-year starter for the Warriors, leading Del Norte to a 16-4 overall record as a junior and senior. He passed for 2,225 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior in 1999, earning Big 5 Conference Most Valuable Player honors for the second consecutive season. He broke the school's single-season and career records for both passing yardage and passing touchdowns in 1999. He threw for 2,010 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior in 1998 and 1,180 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore in 1997.

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