Recently retired CFL quarterback mentoring players
For over two decades, Crescent City native Buck Pierce has had a helmet on his head as he prepares for the upcoming football season, but 2014 is a year of change for the former Canadian Football League quarterback.
After spending nine seasons in the CFL, piling up 1,200 completions for 15,289 yards and 76 touchdowns, Pierce announced his retirement from the CFL after finishing the 2013 season with the B.C. Lions. It took less than a week after retiring for Pierce to announce that he would continue his football career as the running backs coach in Winnipeg, where he spent nearly four years playing for the Blue Bombers, most recently in September of 2013.
"Every day is something new," Pierce said in a telephone interview with the Triplicate. "I have played football since I was seven years old. Every fall I would be putting a helmet on and getting ready for a new season. It is different this year. I still wake up in the morning and go out to the field, but my role has changed.
"I have new responsibilities and a new focus, but it is not a bad thing. I have been really enjoying it. It is something that I have always wanted to do. Being able to start out my coaching career at the professional level is a dream of mine."
Pierce was thrown right into the thick of things less than a month into his coaching tenure with a trip to Florida in April for free agent minicamp.
"That is where we scouted some of the best free agents out there," Pierce said. "Getting to see the scouting and personnel side of things was very intriguing to me."
Pierce did a little more scouting in early May, when he was invited to be a CFL guest coach to help with practices for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport East-West Bowl in May.
"It has been an interesting adventure for me," Pierce said. "I have been learning as much as I can and taken that with me to training camp."
Later in May Pierce got a ring that, while less flashy than the 2006 Grey Cup ring he won with the B.C. Lions, is probably even more important - a wedding ring.
On May 17, Pierce married Lori, who is a Winnipeg native, in Winnipeg.
"It was awesome," Pierce said. "I had a lot of friends from Crescent City come up here to Winnipeg. Then in my typical fashion, I headed to training camp the week after. So the honeymoon will have to wait, but she gets it."
From quarterback to coach
Pierce has been a quarterback throughout his football career. In his first coaching job, however, he charged with mentoring the running backs. Although the position is different from the one that he played, Pierce believes his quarterbacking experience has given him plenty of knowledge to pass along.
"It is football at the end of the day," Pierce said. "The techniques and some of the day-to-day stuff is a little bit different, but playing the position that I played at the pro level, you work with the running backs. I know what we need from our backfield to be successful on offense. I know the kind of player that we need and what types of players succeed in this league. I take everything from that experience."
Although Pierce is in his first season of coaching, he has been able to earn the respect of his players relatively quickly in the preseason.
"I am coaching a running back that I played in the backfield with," Pierce said. "It is a different role. As a former quarterback and a guy that was kind of a leader in that locker room, I feel like I had the respect of my teammates. For me to step into a role now as a teacher and as a guy that is going to help them get to where they want to get in their careers, it has been a very smooth transition.
"There are a lot of familiar faces. Guys that I enjoy being around. Guys that know me as a person and as a former player. I am a guy that has gone to battle with a lot of the players on the team. There is a camaraderie there."
Pierce is looking forward to expanding on that camaraderie as it shifts to a player-coach relationship. Pierce believes that the bond between a coach and his players is one of the most important aspects of coaching. A view that began taking shape in his days playing in Del Norte.
"I have been extremely lucky," Pierce said. "I have had great coaches all throughout my life, and I had great parents that gave me the opportunity to be involved in sports. That is all you can ask for as a kid. There are so many local coaches (in Del Norte) that have had a huge impact on me: Lewis Nova, Blaine Lopez, Kirk Burrows - those guys I have always looked up to. They have had a big influence on my life to help me get to where I was as a player. We have stayed close and that is what coaching is all about - the relationships and the bonds that you form. I have been lucky in that aspect."
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com.