Antonio Pierce announced his retirement from the NFL last week, and says he will take his talents to ESPN as an analyst. The linebacker’s nine-year career came to an end after the New York Giants released him in February, and he failed to sign with a team before the start of off-season activities.
Pierce was not highly recruited out of high school, but eventually played for the University of Arizona after two years at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, California. As a senior for the Wildcats Pierce recorded 77 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one interception. 10 of his tackles were for a loss, and he added a blocked kick on special teams.
Considered too small to play linebacker in the NFL, Pierce went undrafted and signed a free agent contract with the Washington Redskins in 2001. He started in eight games for the Redskins that year, and played in all 16 games. In his rookie year, Pierce recorded 52 tackles, one sack, and one interception. Pierce played sporadically for the Redskins for the next two seasons before playing in a full season in 2004.
Micheal Barrow went down with an injury, and Pierce’s number was called to replace him. During the ’04 season the linebacker made 114 tackles, recorded one sack, snagged two interceptions (one for a touchdown), and forced a fumble. Following that highly productive season, he signed a free agent contract with the Giants.
Pierce started at inside linebacker for the Giants, and was quickly named the captain of the defense. In 13 games in the 2005 season, he recorded 100 tackles (80 solo), pulled down his usual two interceptions, and again forced a fumble that he returned for a touchdown.
He missed the final three games of the ’05 season, and the playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers. The next season, Pierce came back with a vengeance. He was invited to his first ever Pro Bowl after Brian Urlacher was forced to withdraw because of a toe injury. He led the team the following year to Super Bowl XLII where they defeated the undefeated New England Patriots 17-14.
After the conclusion of the 2009 season Pierce told reporters that he was scheduled to have neck surgery, and was considering retirement.
“I am definitely going to miss the fans, the locker room talks, and the excitement of putting on a NFL uniform every Sunday, but I am ready to put on a new uniform, and I am extremely excited about contributing my knowledge and experience in this new endeavor to the championship team at ESPN,” Pierce said in a statement released last week.
“I thank my family, friends, teammates, and fans for their support throughout my career and as I move in this new and exciting direction,” Pierce added.
NFL sportsbooks have set the Giants among the underdogs to win Super Bowl XLV at +2500 odds.