Antonio Pierce knows what it is like to be coached. Now, the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl champion linebacker will draw from his extensive lessons and impart them on the high school football team at Long Beach Poly.
The former New York Giant takes over a Jackrabbits program that is undergoing an overhaul.
FOX Sports was recently able to catch up with first-year coach to ask him about what it is like to embark on this new chapter and some of the challenges he faces.
One such obstacle is championing the cause of a more modern field.
You might ask why after another Pac-5 CIF championship in 2013, a legacy of hundreds of scholarship athletes, 19 CIF championships in program history and over 60 current or former pro football players under their belt.
Pierce, who takes over for Raul Laura, who went 142-30 with five CIF-SS titles in 13 years, will try to rejuvenate the program while also maintaining its lineage and trying to make history. Long Beach Poly has never won a state or national title.
"I want to do something this program has never done before," said the 35-year-old Pierce, who was forced to retire after the 2009 season due to a neck injury. "My thing is to get these kids to live out their dream for four more years and to get a free education."
Pierce also has former NFL wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on his staff to help take over this star-studded team. Pierce has raised the eligibility standards of his athletes from 2.0 to 2.5 GPA.
This left some players ineligible, which caused uproar with some parents. Pierce put the onus on the parents stating, "Ninety-five percent of the other kids got it done how come yours couldn’t?"
In 2015 eligibility standards for NCAA athletes creeps up to 2.3 GPA and Pierce is anticipating preparing his students athletes for future success.
Jokingly, Pierce said he’d like to implement one of former head coach Tom Coughlin’s rules: If you are not five minutes early to a meeting, you’re actually late.
Seems like Pierce, who debuts Saturday against Crenshaw High School, is starting his coaching career at just the right time.