By Joseph Santoliquito
New Orleans, LA (CBS) —Sometime on Sunday night Bernard Pierce will pull on his Baltimore Ravens’ helmet, blot out all of the hoopla, hype, movie stars and other superfluous fluff that surrounds the Super Bowl and just play football.
Just like he did coming up in Ardmore. As he did at Glen Mills. And as he did at Temple before entering this grand stage.
Sometime Sunday night, before strapping on his helmet, he may wonder back for a brief moment that made this journey possible. To the thoughts of an angry kid who one day balled up his fist and made the kind of mistake that frequently derails lives.
Pierce overcame his demons.
While a sophomore year at Lower Merion, Pierce was drawn into a big brawl. Pierce had seriously injured someone, who required hospitalization.
The act changed his life. Charges were filed, and Pierce stood before a judge. He was eventually sentenced to Glen Mills, a school for court-adjudicated youth.
He just shakes his head now at the memory. The kid he used to be learned and grew into the man that he is today—light years from a scared, teary-eyed kid afraid he had no future to playing in the Super Bowl.
“I don’t think about as much, but I shouldn’t have done what I did,” said Pierce, who owns every major Temple rushing record and will back up Ravens’ starting running back Ray Rice. “I got angry and lost control when I should have walked away. But I got caught up in it. You see things flying and I wasn’t going to let my friends down. Looking back on it, I shouldn’t have jumped into it. That wasn’t my fight. I should have walked away. But it’s a day that changed my life. I don’t think I would be where I am today if everything didn’t happen to me the way it did.”
Not many thought Pierce would amount to anything, save for his mother, Tammy, and his maternal grandmother, Ora, who passed away.
“I was in the courtroom the day he was sent to Glen Mills, and we both cried when he was sent to Glen Mills,” remembered Tammy. “That was the most devastating thing that ever happened in my life when Bernard was sent to Glen Mills. I was a single parent working all day, and then dealing with things like skipping school, things like that. It wasn’t anything dangerous. What he used to do was harmless, until that one time. He may have had some doubts about where his future was heading. But through it all, there was never a time when I didn’t see a future for Bernard.”
Pierce is a father now. He vows he won’t make the same mistakes with Bernard Pierce Jr. as his estranged father, Hayward Abney, who was killed in a 2008 car accident, had made with him.
This is the healthiest Pierce has ever been in his career. During the regular season, he rushed for 532 yards and a touchdown, taking 108 carries for a 4.9-yard average and without a fumble. During the postseason he’s been even more valuable to the Ravens, rushing for 169 yards on 27 touches, averaging 6.9 yards a carry.
“It’s been a pretty unbelievable ride,” Pierce said. “I have my mother and grandmother to thank for that. I’m happy to be able to do the things for her I always thought she deserved. They were always there for me when a lot of people I thought weren’t. I started to look at a bigger picture in college and now I’m living it. I used to think I had no future at all. That’s all changed.”