Got a PM just now suggesting I go the New Mexico State U Athletics site and find out about Buck Pierce and Aunt Mabel. This is a terrific article that says volumes about this new guy in BC both as a player and a person. Check it out for yourselves... a great read about a person who is thought of so highly by so many.
A Look Back At The 2004-05 School Year - Letâ€™s Be Thankful For Student-Athletes Like Buck Pierce
Courtesy: New Mexico State University
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Senior quarterback Buck Pierce was one of the great stories of the 2004-05 academic year.
Buck Pierce came from the rainy forests of northern California five years ago to the high desert of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
This fall he became the first New Mexico State quarterback to earn first team all-conference honors since 1977. In May, heâ€™ll leave with a college degree, a truckload of Aggie football records. But just as important, he has left an impression on the University and the community that wonâ€™t soon be forgotten.
For a lot of quarterbacks, having the last pass of your college career run back for a game-clinching touchdown might leave a lasting impression with fans and teammates.
But Pierce is not your average quarterback. Heâ€™s not your average person and thatâ€™s why few will remember that last play.
What they will remember is a gritty competitor, a great leader, a good student and most of all, a special person.
Everyone has a favorite Buck Pierce story.
How about the time his ankle was severely damaged by a hit, but he continued to run for 35 yards and dive over two tacklers into the end zone for a touchdown?
What about his last college game, when after suffering a painful shoulder injury, he came off the bench to lead the Aggies to a crucial fourth quarter touchdown?
Then there was time he announced himself to the college football world when on the second snap of his collegiate career, ran 75 yards to the Louisville 12-yard line in the 2002 season opener.
Or how about the time he completed 27 of 35 passes for 367 yards and three touchdown against Florida International? Instead of running to the locker room to celebrate with his teammates, he walked over to the stands in the end zone and hugged his number one fan. It wasnâ€™t his mom, or his girlfriend, or even his grandparents who own a home in Las Cruces, but a young woman named Mabel who he met while volunteering with the local Special Olympics program.
The vast majority of student-athletes represent the good things that Buck Pierce represents. Many of them unselfishly commit to their teammates and coaches. Many of them excel in the classroom and many others commit themselves to community service.
And most of the time, those stories donâ€™t get told. But this one will.
Pierce came to New Mexico State from Gasquet, California, a town on the banks of the North Fork of the Smith River and within shouting distance of the Oregon border.
He was as talented a basketball player as he was a football player and came to NMSU hoping to do both.
After red-shirting in 2000, he saw extensive backup duty behind record setting quarterback K.C. Enzminger.
In 2002 he became the starter and nearly led the Aggies to a season-opening upset win over South Carolina. He ran for 64 yards and a touchdown and passed for 207 yards and another score as he kept 83,717 Gamecock fans on the edge of their seats.
But the next week, playing back in his home state, Pierce suffered a shoulder injury against Cal. It was one of many injuries Pierce had to battle back from during his career.
In stepped freshman Paul Dombrowski, a southern California native, who led NMSU to an impressive win over in state rival New Mexico. But Pierce regained his starterâ€™s role two weeks later and led the Aggies to a 49-14 win over next door neighbor UTEP.
The following week he was on fire, compiling 102 yards of total offense in the first quarter. On first and ten from the Louisiana-Lafayette 41-yard line, Pierce scrambled out of the pocket, but was hit in the ankle by the helmet of a Raginâ€™ Cajun defender. Nobody knew it at the time, but Pierceâ€™s ankle was severely damaged. Unable to cut to the left or right, he kept running straight ahead for 35 more yards, jumping over a pair of defenders that pounded him into the turf in the end zone.
"I thought he had hurt his knee diving into the end zone," says New Mexico State head athletics trainer Mike Oâ€™Larey. "Only later on film did I see he had been hurt much earlier in the play."
"That was my personal favorite," said Aggie linebacker and junior co-captain Jimmy Cottrell. "That play typifies Buck. It shows his determination on the field."
"That is the play that always sticks out to me," says Tony Samuel, Buckâ€™s head coach during his college career at NMSU.
Pierce missed the next three weeks, came back and played as a backup to Dombrowski, helping the Aggies to a 7-5 record.
As a junior in 2003, he and Dombrowski shared the position. Sometimes the two would switch in the middle of a drive.
Pierce handled it all with class. He took the starting job over when Dombrowski became injured midway through the season, but then in the season finale, on national television, he broke his ankle at the end of the first half and couldnâ€™t finish the game.
This season the team started poorly as NMSU lost four of its first five including humbling defeats to rivals New Mexico and UTEP. He was hurt late in the game against New Mexico and didnâ€™t play the following week against UTEP.
But again Pierce got himself up off the deck and led the Aggies to four wins in their final six games.
In the final game of his career, Pierce was blasted by a blitzing linebacker in the fourth quarter and walked off the field. It seemed his season and this time his career would end with an injury.
But he returned on the next drive, unable to let his right arm fall all the way to his side because of the pain, and led the Aggies on a late fourth quarter drive that nearly won the game.
"When he came off the field, I knew he was hurt, but I knew he would be back in there," says Cottrell. "Everybody knew that. We knew he would put us on his back. I didnâ€™t expect anything less than that from him."
"When he came off the field, I thought he was done," said Samuel. "The next thing you know, heâ€™s throwing on the sideline. You could see in his face, there was no way he was coming out of that game. He plays hurt, he competes hurt, and he picks himself off the ground. He just gets things done no matter what."
Pierce finished his career as the schoolâ€™s all-time leader in passing efficiency (147.9), yards per attempt (8.2), and completion percentage (.663). He also ranks second in interception percentage (2% of total passes attempted), third in total offense (5,661 yards), fourth in pass completions (397), fourth in passing yards (4,927), and seventh in passing touchdowns (30). His 11 200-yard passing games are tied for the second most in school history and his trio of 300-yard games ranks third.
He was responsible for 44 touchdowns, fourth most in school history.
Pierce ranked highly in all these career statistics despite the fact he only started 21 games. The three players that rank ahead of him in career passing yards had 34, 33 and 29 career starts.
"Heâ€™s one of the most competitive guys Iâ€™ve been around", says Samuel. "He has an air about him. Heâ€™s something special." But his enduring legacy at NMSU is what he means to people as a man, not just as a quarterback.
"I was impressed with him when I had him in class," says NMSU Regents Professor and Special Education instructor Anne Gallegos. "He came to me and asked to work for Special Olympics and he wasnâ€™t getting any credit for it."
She remembers that moment when he embraced Mabel after one of the best games of his college football career.
"The FIU game really confirmed it for me. Without him knowing anybody was watching, he gave several big hugs to his number one fan (Mabel). I watched her week after week, always with a new jersey. She would have a jersey that said she was his number one fan, or had a picture of him on the jersey. When the game was over, he came over and hugged her. It made her whole year and her family was overjoyed."
It was a moment that also left a lasting impression on Professor Gallegos.
"It was wonderful. I canâ€™t tell you how meaningful it was to me. Here he is, top of his game, everybody knows him, the most recognized player on the team and he showed me a lot about his compassion for others. There are usually over 100 people in my class and itâ€™s very touching when somebody takes it to heart."
The rewards for Pierce have been just as meaningful.
"She was a big-time fan and she loved going to all the games. She never got a chance to be in contact with any of us. We e-mail each other now and I always see her before the games. She is more than just a football fan, but a friend. She has really made me see the big picture. Iâ€™m thankful for what I have. Sheâ€™s just a great person."
Pierce feels a sense of responsibility as a student-athlete to go beyond the call of duty.
"Itâ€™s something, as an athlete, you need to do. You learn a lot about yourself and people. You learn that what you do effects people. Itâ€™s a good feeling to know that you can touch somebody, not just through being a football player, but being a good person."
He leaves just as big an impression on his teammates and coaches.
"Iâ€™ve never played with a guy like him," says Cottrell. "He makes me better. I want to work just as hard as he does. Heâ€™s a great person, great football player, and great friend. He enjoys life and has fun, but works hard and does the right things. He has this air about him. He always makes the best of a bad situation."
Another bad situation stared Pierce in the face just four days after his final college game. His head coach, Tony Samuel, along with the entire staff did not have their contracts renewed.
How did he handle it? With class and dignity.
"It's hard. I know that the administration has to do what they have to do, but from my personal experience, I have had a great career here and the coaches have gone a great job. They will be missed and I am sure they will be coaching somewhere this spring."
Some people question the need for college athletics. They wonder about the benefits to the young men and women who play the games. Buck Pierce is a poster boy for all that is good about the games we watch.
"I learned a lot about perseverance. Things arenâ€™t always going to go your way. Iâ€™ve become so much more aware of the realities of the game and life in general. Things can be taken away from you. You can either sit back and keep losing, or overcome it and fight through it. My family always stressed that. Iâ€™ve learned a lot about life through this game and Iâ€™m a better person."