Last week, during an interview with The Huddle TV Show, Buck Pierce talked about how excited he was to return to the B.C. Lions for the 2014 season. In a bit of a shocking turn of events, Pierce has suddenly announced his retirement.
During nine Canadian Football League seasons with Winnipeg and B.C., Pierce threw for 15,289 yards, 76 TDs and 63 interceptions. He originally signed with the Lions in 2005 and was a key member of the club as both a backup and starter through five seasons before playing three and-a-half seasons with the Blue Bombers. Last year in Winnipeg, he played behind the worst offensive line in the CFL and never had two steamboats in which to throw. He was dealt to B.C. just before the Labor Day weekend.
Buck rolls to pass in happier times at Investors Group Field. (Photo by Shawn Coates).
Buck James Pierce was born in Hutchinson, Kan., but grew up in Crescent City, Cal., right on the Pacific Coast. He comes from a terrific family. His dad, Tim, is a construction project manager while his mom, Connie, works for an after-school program.
His older brother Dylan, who wrestled in college, is with the Coast Guard in Eureka, Cal. His younger brother Flynt, who played QB at New Mexico State after Buck left, is a police officer in Las Vegas.
Buck was the star quarterback at Del Norte High School in Crescent City. He was a three-year starter at QB and the team was 8-2 in each of his final two seasons. He passed for 2,225 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior in 1999. He won every award his high school league could offer an offensive player. He broke Del Norte’s single-season and career records for both passing yardage and passing touchdowns in his senior season.
He was the league MVP and voted to the Times Standard North Coast California All-Century team.
But he was also an outstanding all-around athlete. He qualified for the State track meet as a long jumper and also led Del Norte to a pair of basketball championships as the team’s point guard.
After his brilliant high school career ended, he accepted a scholarship to New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M., where he majored in kinesiology and winning football games.
In his freshman year at NMSU, he red-shirted with the football team and played varsity basketball. He even thought about giving up football to stay with the basketball team, but in his sophomore year, the two quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart were injured in camp, so he got the starting job.
Buck Pierce (Photo by Lloyd Louie)
“I had a chance to be a starting quarterback,” Pierce said. “I think I made the right decision. Basketball was my first love but I think once I focused on football and focused all my energy towards that, things worked out for the best.”
In 2001, on his first run from scrimmage as a sophomore, he took off on a 75-yard romp against Louisville. However, because the Aggies realized they had this great running quarterback, they decided to run the option. Pierce found himself carrying the ball 15-to-20 times per game. And that’s when his string of injuries began.
“With about nine games left in my sophomore year, I was running the ball, got hit and tore everything in my left ankle,” he said. “I underwent major surgery to insert a plate. In my junior year I did it to my right ankle. But I was healthy for my senior year.
“I’ve always known that this can be taken away from me at any time,” he added. “I’ve had times in my career when I’ve had a chance to say, ‘You know, this is enough, I need to do something else.’ But I know that there’s still a lot of fight left in me and I know if I bounce back from these things and come back with a purpose, I have faith in my ability that I’ll be a good player and I can continue to play.”
After graduating from college in 2005, Pierce signed as a free agent with the B.C. Lions and was almost instantly outstanding. However, he also got hammered in the pocket. The injuries he suffered in college got worse in the pros. During his five seasons in Vancouver, he was sidelined by concussions and injuries to his shoulder, ribs, hand and ankle.
He was released by B.C. after the 2009 season and signed in early 2010 by the Bombers. But playing in Winnipeg was no picnic. The Bombers had a marginal offensive line and in his first season, he injured his knee and then dislocated his elbow.
In 2011, he was sensational. He had career-highs in starts (16), attempts (411), completions (261), passing yards (3,348) and rushing yards (324). He was named Player of the Week twice and with a solid defense, guided the team to the 99th Grey Cup where he threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-23 loss to B.C.
Buck Pierce in 2013 (Photo by Shawn Coates).
He also won the Bombers’ Ed Kotowich Good Guy Award, an honor that is presented annually to a Blue Bombers player for excellence in combining football ability, team camaraderie and extraordinary effort in the community. The award honors former Blue Bomber offensive lineman Ed Kotowich and there could not have been a more deserving winner than Pierce.
Unfortunately, injuries caught up to Buck again in 2012. He missed eight games with a knee injury and two more with head and shoulder problems. He did his best, but Joey Elliott and Alex Brink spent much of the season at quarterback. He was never quite the same again.
“I am very grateful for the support of teammates, fans and management in both B.C. and Winnipeg during my career,” Pierce said in a written statement. “Having an opportunity to retire as a Lion where I won a championship is a tremendous honour. It’s been a great ride and I’m ready to move into the next phase of my football career.”