Former Science Hill running back Chance Pierce will continue his football career on Steve Spurrier Field.
Pierce, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the Big Seven Conference champion Hilltoppers in 2013, said he told ETSU head coach Carl Torbush on Wednesday that he was committing to the Buccaneers in their football program’s reboot.
ETSU will play a limited unofficial season in 2014 against some junior-varsity teams before officially beginning football’s return in 2015. Each of those seasons is expected to be played at Science Hill’s Kermit Tipton Stadium.
Pierce was eager to be a Buc since hearing the program’s return was certain.
“Actually, my first thought was it’s right here and it’s Division I (FCS) and a chance to play at a high level while staying around home,” Pierce said.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Pierce runs a 4.5 in the 40. He said he was considering all levels, as he’d visited D-II Carson-Newman and D-III Emory & Henry.
Pierce anticipates getting a look at running back, but will likely audition in the defensive secondary, too.
ETSU currently has a three-man coaching staff – Torbush, Billy Taylor and Teddy Gaines. Pierce dealt primarily with Torbush, who reminded him a lot of Science Hill coach Stacy Carter.
“They’ve got … about the same expectations out of you,” Pierce said, “no wearing earrings, no skipping class and all that. There’s mandatory two-hour study hall every day (five days a week). If you skip class, he (Torbush) said you’ve got running Saturday morning at six o’clock.”
Pierce and Torbush share an experience, too. Torbush was defensive coordinator at Texas A&M (2003-05). In fact, he was coaching there when ETSU consultant Phillip Fulmer’s Tennessee Volunteers beat the Aggies 38-3 in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 2005.
Before moving to Johnson City while in elementary school, Pierce lived about an hour from College Station, Texas. He attended a couple of camps there and his family had a lake house in College Station, where he even attended a Texas-Texas A&M game at Kyle Field.
“He asked me if I’d lived here all my life and I said I’s actually from Texas,” Pierce said, “and he mentioned he’d coached there and how hot it was there. He said it takes a tough guy to play down there.”
Longtime ETSU strength coach Lee Morrow, who is now helping with recruiting, also impressed Pierce: “He’s awesome.”
Pierce likes the idea of continuing to play at Steve Spurrier Field. He’s also hopeful a game against Appalachian State at Bristol Motor Speedway will materialize for 2016 – the year Tennessee will take on Virginia Tech at the same venue.
Pierce said ETSU is stressing local flavor in its initial signing class. Others who have committed include Dobyns-Bennett running back Zach Casey, Tennessee High receiver Adam Mitchell and David Crockett defensive lineman Colt Jenkins, who tweeted that he’d verbally committed on Tuesday, too.
Science Hill linebacker Gad Nagba could be next.
Pierce will still be 17 when he begins preseason work for ETSU. His birthday is July 30.
He said the ETSU coaches want him to run track this year at Science Hill, which he’s more than happy to do.
“I really wanted to stay here and play with ETSU,” Pierce said. “I didn’t know what was happening for sure, and he finally explained some things and I felt really comfortable with what he said.”