TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- It had been a good run.
But to get to where he wanted to go, he felt he needed to start somewhere new.
DeAndre Pierce’s career got off to a promising start. Over his first two seasons with Boise State, he became a starter and earned honorable mention All-Mountain West honors in 2017.
However, injuries soon derailed that momentum. A ruptured spleen in 2018 and leg injuries last year limited him to just eight games over those two seasons.
Despite the setbacks, he still held hopes of making it to the NFL. So after the 2019 season, with one year of eligibility left, he re-evaluated his situation. He approached his father, Arizona State co-defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce, for his insight. Antonio asked his son what he wanted out of a transfer. If he was going to leave Boise State, what place had what DeAndre needed?
It became clear where that was.
“I was hurt the last two years, so I felt like I needed something to push me over the top,” Pierce said. “I felt it was the best business decision for myself. ASU was the best place for me to elevate my game and challenge myself.”
The transfer to Arizona State centered around a couple of key factors: Coaching and competition.
“What I felt I needed was the right people to get me there, the people who’ve done it at the top, done it the best for the longest amount of time,” Pierce said.
The NFL pedigree of ASU’s staff was clear. In addition to his dad, a former Pro Bowl linebacker and Super Bowl champion, Pierce felt that playing for longtime NFL head coaches Herm Edwards and Marvin Lewis would help prepare him for Sundays.
Pierce also wanted to test himself with a more competitive level of college football. Not only would making the jump from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 provide better competition on game days, but battling for reps with his teammates in practice would help replicate the daily grind in the NFL
“Coming here, I just needed to get used to that,” said Pierce. “I was kinda the man at Boise. I just wanted to challenge myself and compete with guys like Aashari (Crosswell) and Evan (Fields) and Jack (Jones) and Chase (Lucas). I want to challenge myself as a player and a man and see how far I can take myself.”
This is the second time that DeAndre has played under Antonio. During DeAndre's junior and senior seasons at Long Beach Poly High School, his dad was his head coach. Although years have passed, Antonio’s approach hasn’t changed.
“The same person I saw growing up in the house is the same person I see out there on the field,” DeAndre said. “He hasn’t changed how he is, how he talks, how he acts.”
When they discussed his transfer to ASU, DeAndre and Antonio were open about their expectations for themselves and for each other. DeAndre knew that there is no special treatment in being the coach’s son. After all these years, DeAndre and Antonio know the right times to switch between player-coach and father-son.
“(Antonio) treats me like everybody else,” Pierce said. “We both understand that when it’s time to work, it’s time to work. And when it’s time to have fun and chill, it’s time to do that.”
Arizona State began fall camp last week in preparation for the season opener on Nov. 7 against USC. During these early practices, Pierce has been seeing second-team safety reps behind returning starter Evan Fields.
“I feel like it’s been really smooth,” Pierce said. “With my dad being here, and with the help of Coach Marv and Coach Herm, they’ve made that transition smooth for me. The defense is similar to what I was coming from. Having the knowledge of the game and the background that I do, it made it a pretty easy transition for me.”
The defensive scheme being installed by co-defensive coordinators Marvin Lewis and Antonio Pierce is similar to the one that Pierce ran at Long Beach Poly. That familiarity has helped DeAndre Pierce acclimate to his new team, although he admits that there are terminology and communication adjustments to make.
In addition to safety, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Pierce brings the coverage skills and versatility to also help at nickel back. He also feels that his experience and mental approach to the game can help elevate the secondary.
“Once you have that mental aspect of it, there’s nothing you can’t do,” Pierce said. “With this DB group, we’re all versatile. We’re all great athletes, and we’re all smart football players as well, which allows us to move around and make plays all over the field.”
The Sun Devil secondary is arguably the deepest position group on the team. New defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins has a number of talented options at each spot, and the competition for playing time will be fierce, just like Pierce wanted it.
“He sees us as we should be nothing short of the best DB corps in the Pac-12," said Pierce of Hawkins.
If Pierce is able to become a valued part of that group, then the move to the desert will have been worth it.