Long Beach Poly has long been a breeding ground for future NFL players. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, 55 Poly alums have made it to the league including current stars DeSean Jackson, Marcedes Lewis and Jurrell Casey as well as former greats Mark Carrier, Willie McGinest and Gene Washington—Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia is second on the list with 38.
For 23 years, Raul Lara was the head coach at this gateway to the NFL, but he stepped down in late 2013. Former Pro Bowl linebacker Antonio Pierce (his son Deandre is currently a junior cornerback at Poly) was one of 55 applicants to the vacant position as per the New York Times. Pierce was the only applicant without coaching experience, but like everything else in his overachieving career—no scholarships offers out of high school, undrafted by the NFL—Pierce earned his way to the top of the heap.
The Jackrabbits finished last season at 11-2, losing to fellow SoCal football powerhouse St. John Bosco in the Pac 5 CIF Southern Section semifinal 33-21. A bit disappointing for a team that boasted of No. 4 overall recruit (247Sports.com) and USC commit Iman Marshall and Snoop Dogg’s (another Long Beach Poly alum) son and future UCLA Bruin Cordell Broadus but Pierce promises to bring a new attitude and approach to the team.
As per the Long Beach Press-Telegram: “We had some dead weight. I’d observed the program, as a Poly parent and from living in Mission Viejo and watching those games. Football is not for everyone. If we had to play with 58 or 60 players who wanted to be there, that’s what we were going to do.”
Pierce added former NFL wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and former NFL running back Derrick Ward to his first coaching staff and demands a professional attitude from his players. His son Deandre (aka “Fierce) is slightly undersized but is coming into his own as a defensive back and already has an offer from Colorado State and interest from Cal and Boise State.
Pierce will have a hard time replacing Marshall and Broadus, but don’t expect the Jackrabbits to fall from grace under his regime. All Pierce has to do is flash his Super Bowl ring and mention the 55 Poly grads that made it to the NFL to motivate his youngsters. Pierce knows the darker side of the NFL too having driven former teammate Plaxico Burress to the hospital after his infamous self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2008.
Pierce may be something of a taskmaster like his old boss Tom Coughlin, but he is a decorated NFL alum and someone his players can relate to, a high school football player couldn’t ask for much more.