There’s no question that playing running back is one of the most physically taxing jobs in all of sports. So when a college running back brings with the wear and tear of 600+ carries, it’s not unreasonable that teams will be concerned about the potential for that running back has to break down sooner than later.
Such is the concern with former Temple running back Bernard Pierce. Pierce was quite productive in his time at Temple (he scored 27 touchdowns in his final season), but also struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. If he were able to stay healthy, he’d certainly be a valuable asset to a team looking for help at running back, but is Pierce just too big of a risk?
When Pierce arrived at Temple, his talent was clear, and he was immediately plugged into the starting line up. And not surprisingly, he played well, scoring 16 touchdowns and rushing for over 1300 yards. Pierce set multiple school records for a freshman, including most games with 100+ yards (6). Unfortunately, his struggle with injuries began in 2009 as well. He only missed one game, but he left two games early due to a nagging shoulder injury. Those final three games in 2009 would prove to be the start of a troubling trend.
2010, Pierce’s sophomore year, got off to a rough start. Pierce started battling concussion issues during Temples’ preseason workouts. Following the concussion was a serious ankle sprain that stuck with Pierce for almost the entire season. In spite of his stellar freshman season, Pierce’s inability return to get 100% healthy resulted in his relegation to the second string for most of the season. Pierce eventually able to start five games, but he missed two games entirely due to a torn hamstring suffered late in the season.
2011 brought more of the same for Pierce, in both production as well as battles with injuries. It was by far his most productive season, running for over 1400 yards and a school record 27 touchdowns. He only missed one game entirely, but missed 3 starts and had to leave other games early due to lingering hamstring and concussion issues. After his strong 2011 performance Pierce declared for the NFL draft.
When looking for a bright side to Pierce’s injury woes, one might assume that with all the time Pierce missed (at least one game in each season at Temple), that he would have had fewer carries and therefore less wear and tear than an average running back prospect in the draft. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Temple rode Pierce hard when he was healthy, and by the end of his career he’d amassed over 600 carries.
There is a bright side, however. His injury history and relatively limited ability receiving the ball will likely keep him from being drafted by a team looking for an every down running back. And if that’s the case, it will be the first time we’ll get a chance to see if Pierce can stay healthy while just splitting carries. Whatever team lands him will be able to use him as a compliment to their offense instead of its centerpiece. And, at least in my opinion, that’s a situation where Pierce should thrive.